Thursday, July 31, 2008

Costco Courts Controversy

The prospect of a Costco warehouse store on the West Side has set the folks buzzing on two popular blogs-and the misinformation is flowing freely-particularly about the traffic implications. On Curbed some folks opine that driving over to Costco on Eleventh Avenue won't be so bad: "I have money. I live in Manhattan and don't live in a tiny rat-hole like yourself.
I don't care about the lack of public transportation because I have a freaking car. I would Love this Costco. I like buying shit in bulk and getting it out of the way, because I can't stand buying toiletries on a regular basis. The parking lot is great!! It would be great to park easily park, get my shit and leave!!"

Others disagree: "If you must shop by car, the Sam's Club in Secaucus, the Costco in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens or Jersey City, or any others are no more difficult for you to get to, and frankly are probably closer for many of you than 11th Avenue & 53rd Street. And, if you must know, I have three cars, a 4,000 sq ft apartment, and a 6,000 sq ft weekend house. If you like tooling around Manhattan in your car, you are an ass. But, we should not be re-zoning property to encourage someone to build some shopping center that encourages other asses like you to drive around Manhattan to shop for toothpaste."

Another commenter observes that the store with a 2300 car parking facility will not be built utilized by the local neighborhood: "not all New Yorkers live in tiny places, some have storage space and more importantly value their time so buying in bulk." Sorry, but there is a bit of mutual exclusivity here. Those who have money, value their time, will not shlep over to 11th Avenue (by bus? taxi? No subway to be found) to buy a 6 month supply of toothpaste.
And, for those that like to go to a big box store to "stock up on contact solution, toothbrushes, batteries, and pens," there are two K-Marts already in Manhattan. How many times have you headed over to the big K to do the same thing? They also sell oversized package goods at cheap prices. Finally, I understand that Costcos across the country are packed with middle class families buying in bulk to pack the second refrigerator in their basement with a 144-pack of pre-made hamburgers. But, as you all like to lament here, there is no middle class in Manhattan.
I don't care one way or the other whether Costco opens. But it is stupid and false to suggest you are catering to Manhattanites while proposing 2300 parking spaces and a location miles from public transportation. For most Manhattanites, it would be easier to go to the one in Queens."

Over at the Gothamist more popular wisdom is purveyed: "Don't see how this would work in Manhattan?? Are people going to bring their own bags (Costco doesn't use bags) and those little old lady shopping carts with them? I don't see that happening." While another wise West Sider worries about the local economy: "I doubt that the UWS will allow a gigantic warehouse in its neighborhood. I'm all for competition, especially when it comes to food stores, but you have to consider the ramifications from having a Costco. Costco sells non bulk food items such as milk, eggs, juice, fruit, maybe alcohol, etc. If large groups of people start buying their food (and perhaps,alcohol) from Costco, then the local bodegas and wine shops will really suffer. (of course, some people will still shop locally for convenience). Anyway, if your corner stores suffer, then they can't renew their leases. If they can't renew their leases, then the usual suspects will take over their stores. All together now - Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and MORE BANKS. Is that what you want? Hasn't the UWS suffered enough the past 3 years?..."

So the battle is on and it's likely that the traffic analysis will prove to be pivotal. In all of our twenty five plus years of doing these fights, it's never been just about the store-whether the folks liked it or not. In fact, just as it was with Wal-Mart on Staten Island, it often plays out that the more attractive the store, the least desirable it is for the host community. Folks should take a trip down to 60th Street and the river to see just what we mean about the site's accessibility-it would be a traffic nightmare without a doubt.