Monday, January 10, 2011

Skippity Doo Dah

The Walmonster be scared-fearing an avalanche of criticism when the city council holds its hearings on Wednesday, the real estate giant, obviously felt that discretion was better than valor, decided to skip the expected grilling. The NY Daily News has the exclusive: "Walmart execs are boycotting a City Council hearing on the chain's plans to open its first store in New York City, the Daily News has learned. Philip Serghini, Walmart senior manager for community affairs, said in a letter to Council members that the company will skip Wednesday's hearing. He also criticized the Council for picking on Walmart - even though other big chains like Target, Kmart and Costco already have stores in the city."

We can hear the old Coaster's tune, Charlie Brown, as the backdrop to this profile in cowardice: "Why is everybody always pickin' on me?" And Phil Serghini even has some sage advice for the city council: "Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise," Serghini wrote."

We actually think that this, taken in measure, is good advice-but we would add that it should be accompanied by a moratorium on all large scale malling so that the study results can be properly evaluated before any new development is approved. But Serghini is being way too modest-and is trying, unsuccessfully in our view, to downplay the out sized impact that Walmart has-and has had-all over the country. It is being singled out for good reason.

Speaker Quinn rightly chides Big Wally over its timidity: "If you run away from an opportunity to sit in front of the Legislature of the city you say you want to be in, that speaks volumes. If you're not proud of who you are and what you do, you run away," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), a Walmart opponent. "If they don't show up it's because they don't have anything to say to refute the arguments that my colleagues and myself have put forth," she said. "If they did ...why wouldn't they come and rub my face in it?"

Why wouldn't they? And while we're at it, why wouldn't Related come before the council and explain their, um, change of heart over including the Walmonster in their expansion plan after telling one and all that it wasn't going to be part of Gateway II. Maybe here we can understand the developer's discretion. We'll make Quinn's observation-a cautionary tale for Related-the last word: "She said she's made her opposition clear to Related, which doesn't need City Council approval for the Gateway site but frequently has other projects before the Council."