It was supposed to be a rally to protest Wal-Mart’s possible first New York City store, but it became a victory party.
Union leaders came to Albee Square last week fearing that the recent sale of the Gallery mall would trigger a new attempt by Wal-Mart to find a location in Brooklyn. But those same leaders and workers ended up cheering as Pat Purcell, an organizer of Wal-Mart Free NYC, told the faithful, “There will be no Wal-Mart in Albee Square!”
The square will soon be bustling with development activity as new owners Acadia Realty Trust and partner Paul Travis begin demolishing the retail building to build an office and residential tower instead.
But Purcell confirmed that the developers — who paid $125 million for the site — had promised that the behemoth of Bentonville would not be a part of the plan.
Wal-Mart has said in the past that it had eyed the site, formerly owned by Thor Equities, which bought it for a mere $25 million in 2001. Some retail experts have said that a large, big-box store like Wal-Mart — if done properly — could fill a gap in the borough’s under-served retail market.
But that wasn’t on the agenda last week at the protest-turned-party. One by one, union leaders and elected officials allied with their cause stepped up to the mic to congratulate themselves and promise to keep fighting the retail giant.
“We are not done fighting against Wal-Mart in the city of New York,” said Bruce Both, the president of Union Local 1500. “We will oppose them at every turn.”
But celebration wasn’t the only item on the agenda. Most speakers complained that the new tower does not, as yet, include any below-market-rate rentals or co-ops. And the recent development boom in Downtown Brooklyn — thanks to a 2004 upzoning passed by the city council — has left a lot of small business owners around the Fulton Mall scrambling to save their businesses.
“Our city was built on the blood and sweat of our people,” said Joy Chatel, a member of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. “We can’t allow outsiders to come in and take that away from us.”