On October 18, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that residents in Monsey, New York were organizing against a proposed 215,000 s.f. Super Wal-Mart. The store was to be located on the site of a former drive-in theater, and would include a gas station with a parking lot for almost 1,000 cars. A group called the Neighborhood Retail Alliance (NRA), along with county and neighboring Spring Valley, New York officials, held a Village Hall meeting. They met to talk strategy to stop the superstore, and focused on the effect the proposed store would have on traffic, safety, crime, the environment and the local economy. The NRA is a Manhattan-based organization that has been fighting for small businesses for 20 years. Richard Lipsky, director of the NRA, said at the time, “When people are told about the benefits that low prices bring, they are not told of the damages that can ensue.” The developer is National Realty & Development Corp. of Purchase, New York. The town of Monsey asked the developer to produce an economic impact study. The developer was also asked to study air and ground pollutants, and to conduct an analysis of available water resources during droughts. “We’re very pleased with the results of the studies we’re doing,” a spokesman for the developer said. But a representative of the Jewish Business Counseling Center in Spring Valley, said the Wal-Mart would encourage more box stores to come to the area, eventually wiping out mom-and-pop stores. The site is near an existing Pathmark grocery store, and a variety of small merchants, which would all be hard hit. This roadway already has some serious traffic problems, and the Jewish Business Counseling Center has told local officials that increasing traffic in the area is a mistake. “This influx will not only threaten pedestrian safety … it will also disrupt the tranquility of religious observance,” the JBCC wrote. As for the traffic, he said, it would spread to side roads. Spring Valley’s village attorney said the most objectionable parts of the design — the loading docks, and air-conditioning units — were facing senior-citizen apartments. “You put the stuff that’s bad next to those least able to fight it,” he said. Spring Valley has also just spent millions in public funding to revitalize its downtown, and the Wal-Mart would jeopardize that recovery effort.” “We are not against competition,” said the spokesman from the JBCC, “or against the American dream, but not in this area. We’re trying to preserve a community. Why should a shark come and swallow it up?” This week it looks like the shark swam away. The Mid-Hudson News Network quoted the town supervisor in Ramapo, New York as saying that Wal-Mart has decided to pull its supercenter project in Monsey. “The proposal in Monsey was on a two-lane Route 59, and they were never able to deal with the traffic and show how the regional store would work,” the supervisor said. Word of the store’s demise came from the developer, the National Realty Development Corporation.
There are major religious undertones to this story. The newspaper Haaretz proclaimed in February of 2007, “The retail empire Wal-Mart has a new enemy: the ultra-Orthodox community of upstate New York. “Monsey has a large concentrations of synagogues, yeshivas and revered rabbis. Many ultra-Orthodox Monsey residents don’t want a Wal-Mart in their neck of the woods because they are concerned that it will attract many non-residents, including non-Orthodox shoppers, and compromise the safety of their community,” the newspaper said. The Jews who moved to Monsey were looking to live in a quiet place, and feel that a Wal-Mart would force them to cope with something that will likely transform their small town into a noisy consumer center. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 Jewish residents live in the Monsey area. Jewish businesses along Route 59 said the new Wal-Mart would take away their business. A petition was circulated among Monsey residents saying the Wal-Mart would lead to increased traffic, competition with existing local businesses involved with community projects, environmental damage and a higher crime rate. In an effort to appease the religious community, Wal-Mart had agreed to hire uniformed supervisors to make sure the shoppers are behaving appropriately, according to the organizer of an annual kosher food fair in New York. Readers are urged to email a comment to Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef at http://www.co.rockland.ny.us/Executive/RC_CE_Contact_form.html or call 845-638-5122 with this message: “Monsey is fortunate to have seen Wal-Mart walk away from its superstore project, but Rockland County has left towns like this unprepared for Big Box stores. Your county boasts of being a ‘Preserve America community’ because of its commitment to preserving Rockland’s rich historical heritage. The character of towns like Monsey will be altered for decades if suburban sprawl takes over. We urge Rockland County to adopt a 45,000 s.f. size cap on retail buildings in communities like Monsey, to prevent another Wal-Mart project from creating such controversy and animosity. Protect your communities from big box sprawl!”