A Walmart may soon be coming to Brooklyn — because we want it here!
So declared the retail giant Tuesday with the release of a poll it commissioned showing that 76 percent of Brooklyn residents see the big-box retailer as a welcome addition to the Borough of Churches.
The poll is part of a multipronged attack to win over the hearts and minds of critics opposed to Walmart’s plans to build an as-of-right store bigger than three football fields inside the planned Gateway II shopping center at Jamaica Bay off Shore Parkway at Erksine Street.
“We know we have lots of customers from New York City today, even without a store presence there,” said Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo. “New Yorkers are shopping our brand, so it was important to see how they felt about making it more convenient for them to access our stores. The poll results speak for themselves.”
For months real estate watchdogs have been whispering that Walmart will sign a lease with Gateway II’s owner, Realted Companies, even though the developer assured critics it wouldn’t negotiate with the Bentonville Behemoth.
Yet some say Realted Companies isn’t negotiating with any other department stores or supermarkets — leaving the back door open for Walmart once they’ve settled disputes with critics opposed to the company’s alleged union-busting, pittance-paying ways.
Restivo admitted that bringing a Walmart to the city is a “main goal” for the company and that its been trying to assuage concerns city unions and others have about its impending arrival.
According to some reports, Walmart is already in negotiations with city construction unions, hoping to garner its support before breaking ground at Gateway II.
“We’re becoming much more engaged in telling our own story and working to offset the misinformation that’s been perpetuated from our detractors,” Restivo tells us. “The more they get to know us, the more they like us and the more they value a Walmart in their community.”
But some critics won’t be assuaged — no matter how many polls come out in favor of the big-box chain.
“It doesn’t matter what they make their polls say, East New York and New York City is a Walmart-free zone,” said Councilman Charles Barron (D-Canarsie). “[Walmart] discriminates against women and people of color, pay slave wages and destroy local economies because local stores can’t compete with its prices. Walmart is nothing more than a plantation that puts human greed over human need.”
Borough President Markowitz is also against Walmart, even though he’s praised similar big box chains like BJ’s and Target, which are also non-union.
“It’s no surprise that Brooklynites favor a Walmart in the borough — in fact, we know many of our Brooklyn shoppers travel outside New York City to shop at their favorite Walmart in the suburbs,” said Markowitz. “But if Walmart wants to locate here, they have to respect our Brooklyn values of paying fair wages and benefits and allowing employees to organize if they wish.”
While all signs point to Walmart premiering in Brooklyn, it’s actually the second choice among city residents, according to the big box chain’s own poll. More people would like to see a Walmart built in the Bronx, the poll states.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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