The Arkansas Bombers meet the Bronx Bombers. New Yorkers are starting to hear about Wal-Mart’s plans to invade Queens and Brooklyn, in a sort of confederate-retailer-meets-the-Yankees twist. Wal-Mart set its fancy on a site in Rego Park, Queens, but according to the New York Daily News, the company also is exploring a location along Fulton Street in Brooklyn, at The Gallery mall. The Brooklyn site currently is a parking garage next to the shopping center. Wal-Mart’s urban push this past year has met with mixed results. In New Orleans, a bitterly fought store in the lower Garden district has attracted almost as many lawsuits as customers. In Los Angeles, anti Wal-Mart activists have prompted the passage of new zoning restrictions to make it harder for big box stores to build. In Chicago, two Wal-Mart stores have been defeated or stalled. But is Wal-Mart paying any attention to the big city anger it is creating? Apparently not. “The larger cities are growth opportunities for us,” company spokeswoman Mia Masten told The News. The first New York City Wal-Mart is proposed to be a 135,000 s.f. store on Queens Boulevard, part of a new mixed development of retail and housing. But all it took was the shadow of a Wal-Mart to stir up opposition. According to the Daily News, if Wal-Mart selects the Rego Park site, the company should brace itself for community troubles. “Wal-Mart should expect significant opposition,” said Michael Burke, director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council. “Wal-Mart needs to anticipate what the issues and concerns are, and how to satisfy them.” Wal-Mart already has a number of stores along Long Island, including one in Valley Stream, bordering Queens. The developer of the Rego Park site, Vornado Realty Trust, has apparently done 1.6 million s.f. of space with Wal-Mart already in New Jersey.
Wal-Mart has been looking for sites in New York city for quite some time, but wherever the retailer decides to go, look for strong community opposition to follow. That means a lengthy battle, long delays, and millions of dollars in lost sales. Wal-Mart could find the Big Apple contains a Big Worm.