Walled off! Advocates urge city to block land grab by ‘Walmart’ developer

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Residents and out-of-town union advocates urged the city not to sell land to a developer because when lied in its promise to bring a unionized supermarket to the planned Gateway II Plaza shopping center.

The developer of the proposed site, Related Companies, arranged to purchase a 26-acre plot off the Belt Parkway and Erskine Street from the city for $35 million to build retail shops, parkland and housing.

Related also reached a deal with the state to acquire 14 acres near Gateway Drive and Vandalia Avenue.

That sale of the city land is awaiting mayoral approval — and opponents stormed a hearing about the sale last week, telling Bloomberg Administration reps that the city shouldn’t deal with Related unless the developer re-commits to not bringing in Walmart.

“We had a verbal agreement with them that they would lease to a union shop and not to Walmart,” said Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York), a Walmart opponent. “This is about not allowing a company to lie to us.”

Related attorney Jesse Masyr declined to comment about Barron’s assertion.

About 10 other residents also blasted Walmart at the hearing.

“I do not want a Walmart in my community,” said Carmen Deriel, who lives near the proposed big-box store. “I have many friends in the communities with small businesses, and if Walmart opens, they will be destroyed. Don’t make our community any poorer than it is.”

Other Walmart opponents, including Josh Kellerman of the Manhattan-based Jobs for Justice, tried to sway the city against Related by talking money. He argued that the land is worth much more than the city is charging Related, and should be reappraised to allow for an even larger retail center.

“Rather than look at all scenarios allowed under the zoning, it only looked at one scenario suggested by Related,” Kellerman said.

City officials insist that the appraisal is accurate. And they disputed accusations that Walmart treats workers poorly and shuts down mom-and-pops — arguments that have been used repeatedly since the retail Goliath began eyeing Brooklyn last year. For instance, Walmart released a report earlier this year that its New York employees earn about $3,000 more per year than most Brooklyn grocery store workers.

“Walmart creates quality jobs that are as good, if not better, than the majority of businesses we compete with,” said Walmart spokesman, Steven Restivo, adding that Walmart does offer benefits including a health care plan that costs workers as low as $11 per pay period.

And the area where Walmart would set up shop has already been overtaken by mega-chains, including Home Depot, Best Buy and Target, which, like Walmart, are non-union.

“A majority of national retail is non-union,” Restivo said. “When you look at retail and what we offer employees, we’re very competitive to both full-time and part-time workers.”

But four speakers, including a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and one East New York resident, supported the project, asking the city to ignore the Walmart issue because Related plans to construct more than 2,000 “affordable” apartments on the site, a positive addition that would overshadow Walmart.

“I know there are aspects of this plan that are controversial, but the neighborhood needs this affordable housing,” said local Linda Boyce.

There is no set timeline for the city to deliver its decision regarding the land-transfer, but officials said they would “consider” the testimony from Tuesday’s hearing in its ruling, though there is no telling how much weight they’ll give the speeches.

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Howard from Park Slope says:
In this instance, I support Walmart. There is a lot of revenue being spent outside the five boroughs at Walmart's. There are other "big box" non-union stores that have opened and co-existed within the neighborhood. It is time for the politicians to wake up and stop their selective prosecution.
April 22, 2011, 4:55 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Advocates Say 'We Have Enough Jobs in the City' We can tell you where to shop!

Mom and Pop have been put out of business by Fresh Direct and, but they are cool, so they get a pass.

Wal Mart is EEEEEEvillll.
April 22, 2011, 7:45 am
Marc from Williamburg Former Canarsie says:
Bring back EJ Korvettes, and TSS (Time Square Stores ) the good old days in Brooklyn. Thompson should have won the election and get rid of buy my vote Bloomberg.
April 22, 2011, 11:02 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Some need to keep in mind that the reason why other big box stores aren't opposed so much is because they either give benefits to their employees and meet union demands. The problem with Walmart is that they hardly do that. Also, just because they are cheaper doesn't make them better. Many of their products are not even made in the US, they are made in China by workers who got whipped constantly when making them. If anyone is complaining about other businesses hiring illegal aliens, Walmart does this constanly, and does everything to cover that up. They will even make you work extra without any additional pay. I feel bad for all of those who believe Walmart is good when it's really not. Please watch the documentary, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices, if not already, because it states what is really going on there.
April 23, 2011, 11:10 pm
Al M from Bay Ridge says:
Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, aren't these BIG BOX STORES? You allowed them in, but not Walmart? Where is the logic? Are the existing Box Stores they afraid of the competition?
April 25, 2011, 6:14 am
Ms. Lorraine from Chicago Heights says:
Wal-Mart Crushes The Hearts of At-Risk Youth!

Our youth wanted to help Wal-Mart increase their sales by 25% and help Wal-Mart’s unemployed customers by demonstrating how their craft inventions, and other unemployed Wal-Mart customer’s inventions, can increase Wal-Mart sales by presenting a proposal for a proposed Wal-Mart’s Do It Yourself Craft Center for the Holiday Season and beyond. The youth invented and made 26 personalized handcrafted novelty ornaments dolls with initials of each Board of Director and Merchandising Executives using products sold at Wal-Mart’s stores. After spending $200.00 dollars for the proposal presentation, the youth received a letter dated November 14, 2011 stating the Board of Directors cannot receive gifts. Our youth did not know that the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart cannot accept gifts because its policy is not stated on Wal-Mart’s Contact Page.

According to the letter from Wal-Mart’s Legal Department, the youth’s invention novelty ornaments will be “used in a fundraiser to benefit local charities or needy families.” Wal-Mart’s Legal Department intercepts and makes all the decisions regarding mail inquiries.

Our youth organization is not funded nor do we receive financial support. All of our programs are free and benefit at-risk and high-risk youth. Wal-Mart took the youth’s heartfelt craft inventions and sold them to help others, but Wal-Mart did not acknowledge or help the youth who sent the personalized craft inventions. In addition, Wal-marts Board of Directors and Merchandising Executives never received the letters.
Dec. 6, 2011, 1:39 pm

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