Don’t fear the Big Box

The Brooklyn Paper
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Borough President Markowitz is known as a cheerleader — but this week, he had real reason to wave his pom-poms: In just six months, the Ikea furniture store in Red Hook has already emerged as the best-performing location of the chain’s 47 North American outlets.

The report is good news for Brooklyn for several reasons. For one, shoppers are finally getting access to the same low-cost goods as other Americans.

And secondly, hard-fought negotiations with Ikea before, during and after construction ensured that the busiest store in North America isn’t like Ikea’s less-successful locations: massive windowless malls standing in the middle of concrete parking lot dead zones.

Noting the success of Ikea Red Hook, other developers, including the would-be savior of Coney Island, Joe Sitt, are salivating over bringing more big box stores, or even a mega-mall, to the neighborhood. Sitt has said he wants to bring a BJ’s Wholesale Club to a waterfront site he owns next to Ikea.

There is no question that Brooklynites will flock to such a location, but we do not believe that big box retail is the best course for the remaining open land along Red Hook’s waterfront.

We want to see big box retail in Brooklyn, but we’d like it in a place that is both more accessible and can boost existing retailers. That place, unequivically, is Downtown Brooklyn.

So we reiterate our call for a Brooklyn Wal-Mart — on or near the Fulton Street Mall.

Every overture Wal-Mart has made to New York has been accompanied by the predictable (and lamentable) hue and cry from city officials and their labor union enablers that Wal-Mart is antithetical to city life.

But this is a myth.

There’s no question that Brooklyn shoppers want such stores. The few discounters, like Ikea, that circumvented the moat around New York to open here have done very well. The Target at the Bruce Ratner-owned Atlantic Terminal is reportedly that chain’s busiest location. The Fulton Mall draws 100,000 shoppers a day. The new Trader Joe’s at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street in Cobble Hill is a retail juggernaut, too.

A 2006 study by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce found that Brooklyn had less retail space per capita than sluggish cities like Detroit. That study is even more relevant today, given the downturn in the economy.

Too many Brooklynites are spending their money at chain stores on Long Island or in New Jersey. Those who need the discounts the most, but can’t afford to travel, just stay home and pay more.

Opponents will say that a Downtown Wal-Mart would bring too much traffic, but no area is better suited than Downtown to handle it. Not only is there ample subway service through the area, but on weekends, when most driving customers would be shopping, there’s a bit more room for cars.

So don’t dump on Red Hook. Downtown is the place for big box retail.

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pacholo from Red Hook says:
I lost my fear of the big box and ended up having three beautiful chamacos with my baby mama.
Feb. 26, 2009, 10:24 pm
andreas from brooklyn says:
I hope a downtown Wal-Mart would be better planned than the Atlantic Ave Target.
That Target is a nightmare for people who need to 'stock up,' so must park and load a car (or car svc). It makes them buy a whole lot less next time, or sends them right back to the Targets in NJ, LI, or non-downtown Brooklyn.
Feb. 27, 2009, 5:28 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
If everyone built a building like Ikea, made its major furniture in the US itself, everyone would support even Walmart. Walmart is the single largest importer into the US and has demanded that its suppliers cut the cost of the goods in a way that makes it certain they will go overseas. Ikea spent untold millions on a park, which Walmart would never do. Finally Ikea also provides free mass transit. Walmart would never do that.

So there are box stores and then there are box stores. I was wrong about the traffic at Ikea its not as bad as I thought and they have done a lot to make it better(with how the traffic flows there)...
Feb. 28, 2009, 10:04 pm
todd from park slope says:
actually another major retailer in Red Hook wouldn't be so bad due to the transportation phenomenon know as "linked trips" (e.g. people going to IKEA, often go to fairway as well). The Revere Sugar site is a gap, but with the right kind of retail which complements the existing ones, you could link the IKEA and Fairway sites without inducing many new vehicle trips. That's probably not Walmart or BJ, but it could be a Bed, Bath & Beyond or a huge H & M. You would also have a 2 1/2 mile contiguous walkway from Conover Street to Columbia Street which is not too shabby!
March 1, 2009, 11:24 am
Nidsy from Clinton Hill says:
The difference between Ikea and Walmart is their mission. Ikea was planned in an area that didn't displace residence, created a park, free transportation, and Ikea is a company committed to fair compensation for its workers.

As we all know by now, Walmart pays minimum wage, discriminates against female employees, quashes attempts to unionize, and hires workers on a part-time basis in order to avoid giving them benefits.

Walmart will only bring down a community for their own benefit. Brooklyn need not do Walmart any favors at its own expense.
March 3, 2009, 6:36 pm

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