Wal-Mart protests begin

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Standing outside local grocery stores, including Key Food supermarkets in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, a group of residents protested Wal-Mart on Sunday, amid reports that the nation’s largest retailer is looking to open a big box store in Brooklyn.

Some might call it jumping the gun, but to organizers from the new group, which they are calling, “Wal-Mart No Way,” rallying Brownstone Brooklynites now is a necessary first step in fighting off what they see as a predictable plague.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman told The Brooklyn Papers recently that the company was “looking, not just throughout Brooklyn, but throughout the other boroughs,” for places to open stores.

“I read about Wal-Mart’s proposal to move into New York City,” said Pete Sikora, a Park Sloper who co-founded the organization. “That was a proposal to build in Rego Park, [Queens], but when a Daily News story wrote about proposing a store in Downtown Brooklyn, I said ‘No way!’”

Though the company rebuffed that story, which reported Wal-Mart was scoping out a site near Willoughby Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension, their denial didn’t deter Sikora.

“I got fired up and called a few friends who got pissed off, too,” he said. “Based on [Wal-Mart’s] record it’s entirely deserved.”

Sikora, who lives on the burgeoning commercial strip of Fifth Avenue, said that while he had talked with friends about the Rego Park plans, it wasn’t until a recent City Council hearing on Wal-Mart, where the company announced it wanted to expand not just in Queens, but the rest of the city, that he took action.

“It’s bad enough to have a store in Queens, but even worse to have one in Brooklyn. In reality, what Wal-Mart does is destroy jobs and communities,” he said.

Sikora and several pairs of his equally inflamed friends stood outside five local businesses Sunday, spreading themselves throughout Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and Park Slope, handing out fliers and urging residents to become involved by calling 311 and “telling the mayor they oppose Wal-Mart coming to New York City.”

“Wal-Mart should stay out of New York City entirely, but it’s particularly bad for Downtown Brooklyn, because the community is doing just fine right now,” Sikora said. “Brooklyn has a brownstone culture that’s incompatible with a retailer as massive and large-scale as Wal-Mart.”

In testimony submitted to the council’s Jan. 6 hearing on a moratorium under consideration that would disallow further development of big box stores in the city, Maston claimed each Wal-Mart would generate “more than $5 million in property and sales tax revenue” and more than 300 local jobs.

With 4,905 stores internationally, Wal-Mart has become the world’s largest retailer, but has not yet tapped into the New York City market. They have, however, announced plans to open 300 more stores in the coming fiscal year, including the one in Queens.

“We don’t have any [specific] sites in Brooklyn that we’re looking at,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mia Masten. “We haven’t ruled out anything, we just don’t have any plans at this time.”

Sikora said he couldn’t be happier if that was the case, but he was just getting ready for what he sees as an inevitable battle.

“Hopefully, it’s not a reality right now, but it might be real in a month,” he said. “Certainly they’re approaching New York City with multiple store proposals, so communities need to get organized now.”

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