Wal-Mart is entangled in the “Battle for Two Brooklyns” — and neither fight is good public relations for the giant retailer.
In Brooklyn, Connecticut, anti-Wal-Mart residents have been waging war against the retailer since the fall of 2008. Their efforts to keep out a 162,000 s.f. big box have wound up in litigation, and last week a New York State Appellate Court tossed out a petition residents had filed against a decision by the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission.
According to the Norwich Bulletin, A Putnam Superior Court judge denied the appeal, so opponents petitioned the Appellate Court. If the petition had been granted, the case would have moved onto an appeal.
But this is far from the end of the battle for opponents. An appeal has also been filed against the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which also approved the Wal-Mart plan. These appeals were first filed in the spring of 2009 — so the legal wrangling has kept Wal-Mart on ice for roughly a year and a half — and cost them tens of millions of dollars in lost sales.
Meanwhile, another Wal-Mart battle in Brooklyn — this one in New York — is just starting to show flames.
A developer is attempting to buy from the state more than 20 acres of land in East New York, Brooklyn to build a Wal-Mart. But the New York Daily News reports that Wal-Mart opponents are trying to dislodge the land deal by lobbying New York Governor David Paterson to nix the deal. “The governor should not sign off on this until they get an agreement not to destroy our economy with Wal-Mart,” City Councilman Charles Barron, told the Daily News. Barron represents the Brooklyn district where Wal-Mart wants to locate. According to Barron, the developer promised him that Wal-Mart would not be the tenant.
But Governor Paterson’s office has suggested that they have no role to play in the land negotiations. A representative for his office said state law requires the land to be sold for a ‘fair and equitable price,’ and said a number of state agencies are in negotiations with the developer.
The Governor’s intervention would certainly send a strong message to the agencies working on the deal, but his office told the Daily News, “there is nothing on the governor’s desk about the property.” If the sale of state land falls through, there is no Wal-Mart deal.
The parcel of land itself is part of the district represented by State Senator John Sampson, but his office took no clear position on the sale. “His biggest preoccupation has been putting New Yorkers back to work, and Wal-Mart, of course, comes with jobs,” one of Sampson’s spokesman told the newspaper. “But he also has to balance that against the issue of the impact on small and medium-sized businesses in his district.”
The reality is that once you net out the jobs lost in smaller businesses, Wal-Mart does not “come with jobs.” Economic development and economic dislocation are not one in the same.
This fact was not lost on City Councilman Barron, who led a delegation of Wal-Mart opponents to City Hall this week. Barron compared Wal-Mart to a southern plantation. “We will not be your slaves and you’re not bringing that plantation to East New York,” the Councilman told the crowd of roughly 100 people. The group was chanting “Wal-Mart must go,” and held signs declaring Brooklyn was a ‘Wal-Mart Free Zone.”
Readers are urged to email New York State Senator John Sampson at [email protected] with the following message:
“Dear Leader Sampson,
You’ve been in the State Senate for nearly 15 years now. Over that time, you have seen projects that create jobs, and projects that claim to create jobs. With the proposed Wal-Mart project in your district, it is fuzzy math to say that your constituents will see new jobs from another national chain store.
Please remember that Wal-Mart is a bottom-feeder: its jobs are low wage, its benefits not of much benefit. That’s why so many Wal-Mart workers and their children end up on Medicaid. Equally important, Wal-Mart sales come from other cash registers at existing merchants. One study, for example, said that for every one Wal-Mart superstore that opens, two local grocery stores will close. The backbone of business in Brooklyn is the small, local merchant, and shopping with that merchant is a better investment than depositing funds with Wal-Mart, which ships its dollars and its production to China.
I urge you to get involved with the land deal now being negotiated with the developer. That 20 acres of land could be put to much better use — like a neighborhood-compatible mixed use development, with housing, smaller retail, and office space — something that fits into an urban landscape. Don’t let the rhetoric of jobs fool you. Inviting Wal-Mart into Brooklyn is like inviting a retail cannibal to dinner. If you want to put New Yorkers back to work — you won’t do it with a Wal-Mart.”