Friday, August 25, 2006

Wal-Mart Walloped

In today's papers there is extensive coverage of the demise of Wal-Mart's plans to build a store on Staten Island. The NY Times' Steve Greenhouse, who covered the story last year and raised some of the initial community concerns, writes today that Wal-Mart pulled out because of "toxic chemicals" on the site. He quotes the Alliance's Richard Lipsky, "The only thing toxic on the site was the lack of public support that the store had."

In today's NY Sun, Dave Lombino, who has been tracking the peregrinations of the retail giant for the past two years, details the extent to which Wal-Mart lacked the political and community support needed to get the requisite zoning approvals. He quotes our two key allies, June Delaney of the Tottenville Civic Association and Dee Vandenberg of the Staten Island Taxpayers Association, to the effect that there was no way that this store would be accepted by the local community.

In fact, Delaney makes the point that we've been making all along on the Island that the fight here was not about whether the store was good or bad (many in Tottenville like it a great deal), but whether the Richmond Valley Road site made sense. As Dee told the Sun, "Any box store of that magnitude-we just don't have the infrastructure to support any more development of this kind on the Island..."

The NY Daily News also weighs in this morning and gives Tottenville's Delaney the props she deserves. As June told the paper, "I'm thrilled...The town of Tottenville put up a really good fight." The paper also reports that Councilmembers Oddo and McMahon expressed their happiness about the company's decision to pull out.

What didn't make sense, however, was Councilman Lanza's reticence to take credit for his role in the Walmonster's fate. As the News says, "Councilman Lanza...whose district includes the site, said he had concerns about the traffic but had not taken a position on whether the Wal-mart should be built." Which is certainly puzzling to all the folks in Tottenville who attended the community forum last October and heard the councilman's staffer clearly announce Lanza's opposition to a Wal-Mart on Richmond Valley Road.

In any case, this defeat makes it very clear that the road is really rough for the retail giant here in NYC. As RL told the Sun, "If they are unable to mange a site in Tottenville, it is hard to imagine any site in the city where they need approvals, where they will be able to locate."