Protests, Worries Surround Walmart's Effort to Open in Brooklyn

Company boycotting meeting, calling it unfair; opponents plan protest

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    NEW YORK - MAY 20: A protester holds a sign during a rally against a proposed Wal-Mart in Starrett City on May 20, 2010 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Over a dozen people attended the rally, saying that the shopping center would undercut smaller local businesses and that the giant retailer has a blighted history with labor unions, discrimination and fair pay. If Wal-Mart is successful in building te store, it would be the first in New York City. Wal-Mart is currently contending with a discrimation lawsuit, one of the largest in U.S. history. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    The City Council met Thursday to discuss Walmart's latest round of plans to build its first store in the city, in a poorer neighborhood in Brooklyn where opponents say the megastore will shut local businesses and drive down wages.

    Scores of people protested Walmart's possible arrival in the city ahead of the afternoon meeting. 

    The City Coucil was set to discuss the economic impact of Walmart, which has launched a large-scale plan to win over hearts and minds, and after years of false starts, finally open up in the city.  

    Walmart is boycotting the hearing, saying they are being treated unfairly since other large retailers like Target have not undergone the same scrutiny.

    The largest private employer in the country, Walmart has previously attempted to open stores in New York, scouting locations on Staten Island and Brooklyn. The company's been met with opposition each time.

    Now, though, Walmart has reinvigorated its effort to bring a presence to the five boroughs.  

    They've created the website walmartnyc.com, which displays large cities similar to New York economically thriving with Walmart stores.

    The lead story--"When Walmart Comes To Town: A Chicago Success Story"--draws comparisons between New York and the other union-heavy city, which opened a second Walmart in the city over the summer after making deals with construction unions and politicians.

    "After Walmart open in Chicago’s 37th Ward, 22 businesses opened nearby, responsible for generating thousands of new jobs," the site declares.  

    The company, which set up shop in a lower-income neighborhood of Chicago, was seen by many local politicians as a welcome change. Stores opened in "food deserts"--areas where residents were miles away from access to fresh produce and healthy food options.

    But a report out of Hunter College last month actually concluded the opposite--saying Walmark actually drives down wages and is a tax burden because it does not give health and other benefits to many part-time employees, leaving a burden on Medicaid and other public programs.

    Walmart's plan is to open a store in Brooklyn in a lower-income area between the Belt Parkway and the Spring Creek Towers, formerly called Starrett City, which is the largest federally subsidized housing project in the country. 

    The surrounding areas are lower- and working-class, drawing easy comparisons. But unlike the Chicago neighborhoods, there are already retail stores and supermarkets nearby, including big-box retailers like Target, BJ’s Wholesale and Home Depot. 

    And local politicians, including City Councilmember Charles Barron, are against the store coming to town.

    While Walmart may see itself as a saving grace for poorer neighborhoods--bringing jobs and cheaper food and products--a study published in January by Hunter College's Center for Community Planning showed that America's biggest discounter may actually make neighborhoods poorer.

    The report found that Walmart kills jobs, drives down wages and is a tax burden because it doesn't provide health and other benefits to many part-time employees. This puts a strain on Medicaid and other public health programs.

    Walmart dismissed the report, saying it didn't give a comprehensive analysis of their impact.