Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The Courier Life papers has an article on the possible siting of a Walmonster at the expanded Gateway Mall in East New York-and hones in on the possible snag that the disposition of state property might create: "Several local lawmakers say they will hold a giant parcel of state-owned land hostage until they get a guarantee that Walmart won’t ever be allowed to lease space atop it. The 20-acre plot behind a shopping center off the Belt Parkway and Erskine Street is needed by Related Companies if it intends to bring in a Walmart the size of three football fields as the centerpiece of its planned Gateway II plaza.

Leading the charge is the local council member: "But that land won’t be available to Walmart, vowed one pol. “The governor should not sign off on this until they get an agreement that Walmart isn’t coming in,” said Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York), one of the most outspoken opponents to the big box chain. “[Walmart] doesn’t have a contract with Gateway II, but they’re trying to sneak in behind the curtain. We don’t want the Walmart plantation in East New York.” Barron’s wife, Assemblywoman Inez Barron (D–East New York), is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband in the fight against the Bentonville Behemoth, who they say would hurt the local economy."

Meanwhile, local opposition is mounting-with a community gathering scheduled right after Christmas at an East New York church. Assembly member Baron underscores the concerns of the opposition: "In communities across the country, Walmart stores devastate local businesses and destroy more jobs than they create..."

For its part, as NPR reports, Walmart is looking to penetrate previously neglected markets in urban areas: "Retailers have been following the growth of the suburbs for decades, setting up in shopping centers and big-box strip malls far outside the core of major American cities. Department stores that stayed in big-city downtowns have suffered. Others didn't stay — they closed up altogether. But a reversal of that trend is becoming apparent. Big-box retailers — companies that built their discount businesses out where land was cheap and space was plentiful — are now moving inward."

And Walmart is looking to design some smaller models to configure better into urban environments: "n Fairfax County, Va., a new Walmart opened a few weeks ago that's a kind of a middle ground in urban experimentation. It's on thickly congested Route 1, just outside Washington, D.C.'s Beltway. It's not in the heart of a city, but it is in a close-in suburban area with a real mix of incomes and ethnicities. Outside, the store is what you would expect. There is a big parking lot in front, and Chuck E. Cheese's occupies the space next door. But inside, this store is a Walmart on the cutting edge. Steven Restivo, Wal-Mart's director of community affairs, says this store is smaller than people are used to seeing in a Walmart — it's just 80,000 square feet."

Which raises the question: How low can they go? "That's less than half the size of some Walmart Supercenters. But it's still large compared with some of the company's future urban floor plans, which could run as small as 30,000 square feet." But to us, no matter how you slice Big Wally, it's still baloney-and the proliferation of smaller Little Wallies could do more damage to the economy of NYC neighborhoods.

Not everyone is buying Wal-mart-the slimmed down version or the super-sized model. And we'll give one DC critique the last word-hoping it is prophetic for NY: "Zein El-Amine is a part of the group called "Wal-Mart Free DC." He says this kind of development "shreds the fabric of the community," lowering wages and running small, independent stores out of business. Wal-Mart disputes these points. But El-Amine says when it comes to development, cities must "think outside of the big box."