Reporting Rich Lamb
NEW YORK (CBS New York) – The controversy over bringing Walmart to New York City faced a public hearing on Thursday. Small business owners and workers from across the five boroughs rallied on the steps of City Hall to keep the warehouse store giant out.
“Walmart doesn’t bring jobs; it takes away jobs. They kill jobs,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
Council members said they’re against the plan, but Walmart made a move it hopes will change some lawmakers’ minds, having reached a deal guaranteeing that union workers will build or renovate any stores it opens in the city over the next five years. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has previously said the retailer has a right to open in the city, and would employ a large number of people.
Quinn is leading the charge against Walmart saying the retailer eliminates jobs and pays below market wages. Thirty-five people were scheduled to testify at Thursday’s hearing but Walmart representatives were not present.
“I think it speaks volumes that they want to come to this city but they won’t come before its legislature and talk about how quote-unquote ‘great’ they think they are,” Quinn said.
Representatives said the company would not attend the hearing because the city council was not considering the impact of Walmart’s biggest competitors – like Home Depot, TJMaxx and Target – which have already opened retail locations in the city.
The retailer’s potential move is not popular with some local merchants. They said they fear the competition.
Mark Tanis, who manages the “Shopper’s World” store in East New York, said bringing a Walmart to Brooklyn would put his store out of business.
“They are a monster that is going to eat us up,” Tanis told CBS 2′s John Metaxas. “A jacket I’m selling for $24.99, they could easily come and sell that for $15.”
In fact, Tanis said, Walmart’s pricing and advertising power threaten the entire stretch of stores on Pitkin Avenue.
“I think it would look like a ghost town if Walmart was to come,” he said.
Walmart was said to be eyeing property near an existing mall just off the Belt Parkway, where many other big box retailers have already set up shop. Many people who spoke to CBS 2 say they’d be thrilled to have a Walmart.
“Walmart is what we need,” shopper LaShaun Munford. “We need more. We need a bigger variety.”
“To bring a Walmart to Brooklyn, that’s tremendous,” said Patricia Randall. “We would love it. Bring it on!”
Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio has done a study on Walmart, and he thinks differently.
“In Chicago just a few years ago, Walmart came in and put 82 businesses out of business,” DeBlasio said.
DeBlasio said the closure of those businesses resulted in a net loss of jobs in the area.
Walmart counters that it does create jobs, and provides communities with healthy and affordable food.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone needs to make a living,” Tanis said. “How am I able to live, to feed my family?”
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