Editorial: Wal-Mart retreats, and the city loses out again
Attention shoppers: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has called an indefinite timeout in its fruitless battle to win the hearts and minds of union-backed politicians and open a store somewhere in New York City.
So for now, the city has three big-time losers: Wal-Mart, America's largest retailer, which is hunting for untapped markets; low-income shoppers, who need all the discount options they can find; and job-seekers, who are desperate for entry-level gigs.
Wal-Mart's efforts in the city began in 2005 with a plan for a Rego Park store. It ultimately came to naught. Same story on the chain's hopes for a Staten Island store. And last fall, the retailer abandoned plans to build a store in East New York after encountering flak.
That store would have added 500 jobs in a borough with a 9.5 percent unemployment rate. It would have boosted discount shopping opportunities in a neighborhood where 36 percent of residents are under the poverty line.
Wal-Mart was "up against tremendous political and community opposition that made it impossible for them to open a store in New York," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an outspoken opponent of the chain.
Tremendous community opposition? Nah, not really. A 2011 NY 1-Marist poll found that 64 percent of New Yorkers wanted a Walmart in the city and 31 percent didn't.
A union official got closer to the truth when he complained that Wal-Mart's practices "bottom out prices." Right, that's what many people like about it. The real issue is that Wal-Mart is known for its tough anti-union stance. Union leaders don't want it to get a foothold in the city.
For its part, Wal-Mart says New York City residents spent more than $215 million last year by traveling to suburban stores in areas like Valley Stream and White Plains.
The good news: Wal-Mart says it still wants to build a store in the city. The company's best option now is to find a site that doesn't demand sign-offs by elected officials worried about union wrath.
Its presence here would boost the city's tax base -- and the workers and shoppers who need help the most.