Walmart gave the Brooklyn Public Library $50,000 this week, but opponents of the big-box store’s move into Brooklyn say the donation is just another cheap hustle by a company looking to grease the wheels so it can open here without protest.
“Walmart is nothing more than a group of two-bit, low-life cheap hustlers trying to buy their way here,” Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie) said Wednesday when told of the company’s donation to the Library’s Youth Literacy Program. “But we are not going to be its cheap date.”
But Walmart officials say the company has been donating in New York City for years, and this donation was par for the course.
“We’ve donated this money because many of our customers and suppliers live and work here,” said spokesman Steve Restivo. “It’s not our fault that our critics are now just paying attention to this.”
Restivo said the company has given more than $13 million to city non-profits since 2007.
In early August, the company donated $100,000 to the city’s restoration of the Marine Park Salt Marsh — which is roughly five miles from the planned Gateway II Center, where many expect Walmart to open its first store in the city.
This past spring, the company donated $4 million to a city program that helped more than 1,000 Brooklyn teens get summer jobs. The company also became a sponsor of Borough President Markowitz’s popular Crown Heights summer concert series.
Barron believes that Walmart is spreading its cash around because the company’s “desperate” to open a store in the borough.
“If they’re so concerned about coming to Brooklyn, all they would have to do is pay a living wage, provide a decent pension and allow their workers to unionize,” Barron said. “That will tell me that they’re serious to come here.”
Despite Barron’s warnings, the Brooklyn Public Library hailed the donation, which it said would help fund a number of literacy initiatives geared to encourage children to read at an earlier age.
“This generous donation will help us continue to enhance early literacy programs for young children so they can develop the skills they will need to be successful in school and in life,” explained Rachel Payne, coordinator of Children’s and Family Services at the Brooklyn Public Library. “[These programs] offer young children and families the opportunity to read together, play together, and learn together in a fun and rich environment,”