Pols play ‘Stall-mart’ to keep retail giant from Brooklyn

Pols play ‘Stall-mart’ to keep retail giant from Brooklyn
Photo by Paul Sakuma

Several local lawmakers say they will hold a giant parcel of state-owned land hostage until they get a guarantee that Walmart won’t ever be allowed to lease space atop it.

The 20-acre plot behind a shopping center off the Belt Parkway and Erskine Street is needed by Related Companies if it intends to bring in a Walmart the size of three football fields as the centerpiece of its planned Gateway II plaza.

But that land won’t be available to Walmart, vowed one pol.

“The governor should not sign off on this until they get an agreement that Walmart isn’t coming in,” said Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York), one of the most outspoken opponents to the big box chain. “[Walmart] doesn’t have a contract with Gateway II, but they’re trying to sneak in behind the curtain. We don’t want the Walmart plantation in East New York.”

Barron’s wife, Assemblywoman Inez Barron (D–East New York), is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband in the fight against the Bentonville Behemoth, who they say would hurt the local economy.

“In communities across the country, Walmart stores devastate local businesses and destroy more jobs than they create,” Assemblywoman Barron said.

But not all local legislatures are prepared to block Walmart from coming in.

A spokesman for state Sen. John Sampson (D–Canarsie) said bringing jobs back to the community is a top priority of his boss — something a Walmart would inevitably do.

“His biggest preoccupation has been putting New Yorkers back to work, and Walmart, of course, comes with jobs,” spokesman Michael Roberts told the New York Daily News. “But he also has to balance that against the issue of the impact on small and medium-sized businesses in his district.”

Walmart hasn’t officially committed to building at Gateway II — which would be an as-of-right project.

Yet some say Realted Companies isn’t negotiating with any other department stores or supermarkets — leaving the door open for Walmart once they’ve settled disputes with critics who claim it saddles employees with poor salaries, no healthcare benefits and bar them from unionizing.

Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said the company is trying to assuage concerns of city unions and others worried about its impending arrival.

“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 said. “The more they get to know us, the more they like us and the more they value a Walmart in their community.”

As Walmart continues to try to win over the hearts and minds of some Brooklynites, it released a pol that said 76 percent of residents would like to see one of its stores open in the borough.

Opponents dispute the findings of the pol — which Walmart bankrolled — and have also begun organizing: Opponents to the big box chain have put together a coalition called Walmart Free NYC.