Sparks Fly at Walmart Hearing
February 3rd, 2011
If today’s hearing is any indication, Walmart will have a next to impossible chance of getting a New York City store approved by the City Council.
Several dozen council members and a standing room only crowd gathered in Lower Manhattan this afternoon to debate how a Walmart store would affect small businesses and communities in the Big Apple. Last month, Walmart kicked off a vigorous marketing campaign to court New Yorkers and convince them to support a New York City store.
Officials from Walmart refused to attend today’s council hearing, arguing they were being unfairly targeted.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn blasted the corporation for not testifying. Their absence, she said, “sadly only leads me to be further skeptical.”
For more than four hours, council members tore into Walmart’s policies, including its labor practices, which have been the subject of several lawsuits. They heard from experts across the country who had studies in hand that argued Walmart would lead to small businesses boarding up.
Not one council member voiced support for a New York City Walmart.
The Walmart issue encapsulates a familiar debate at the City Council — one that last reared its head when the body rejected the development of the Kingsbridge Armory. As Walmart argues it will bring jobs to New York City, advocates and officials question the quality of those jobs, whether they will provide health insurance and whether they will pay a living wage.
For some, the prospect of jobs is good enough.
“Everyone is waving this boogeyman around about how this corporation is going to come in,” said Tony Herbert, a community activist and Walmart supporter. “I will say to you directly, we need jobs for our community.”
Others think a store would end up with a net loss of retail positions.
“Wal-monster will drive the small businesses out of business,” said Mark Tanis, the general manager of Shoppers World in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
In the end, it’s unclear whether the council will even have any decision over whether Walmart comes to the Big Apple. The mega-store is rumored to be eying sites they could build “as-of-right,” including one area in East New York in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, you can bet the council will be out in full force to try to put a stop to it.
“Don’t even think about coming to East New York,” said Councilmember Charles Barron, who represents the neighborhood. “We will not be your slave workers on your plantation.”By Courtney Gross on February 3, 2011, 6:53 pm
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