The famed Walmart chain of superstores has failed in its attempt to open its first outlet in New York City, which was slated for Brooklyn’s East New York area.
Although the Walmart Corporation has been heavily criticized by many for its allegedly anti-union policies, its spokespeople claimed that financial issues – not political differences – were responsible for the doomed effort. Owned by developer Related Cos., the 630,000-square-foot Gateway II shopping center that Walmart had hoped to occupy will instead be the site of a ShopRite supermarket.
Employee unions and candidates for elected office who are supported by labor applauded the announcement and pledged to continue actively working to prevent nonunion Walmart stores from setting up shop in New York City. The ShopRite chain is a New Jersey-based cooperative whose employees are unionized.
Walmart was said to be seeking to build a store on the site since it was officially rezoned in 2009 for a big-box store. “We were unable to agree upon economic terms for a project in East New York,” stated Steven Restivo, Walmart’s senior director of community affairs. “We remain committed to bringing new economic development and shopping options to New York City, especially in the neighborhoods that need them most.”
Walmart has placed a high priority on entering the New York City market, typified in just one example by its $4 million donation to a city job program that was made public at a news conference with Mayor Bloomberg. These attempts have been countered, however, by strong opposition from influential unions and elected officials who have condemned its treatment of workers.
“ShopRite will bring quality food to this area of Brooklyn, as well as good jobs with an economic impact that will be felt throughout the five boroughs,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “I welcome this company’s newest location with its history of responsible business practices, supporting its workers and the communities they serve.”
Responding to the charges against it, WalMart has claimed that most grocers are nonunion entities, and that its salaries and benefits are in line with those of other grocery stores, including unionized companies.
Whereas Walmart would most likely have covered approximately 150,000 square feet in the new development, the planned ShopRite store will take up about two-thirds of that area, according to a person familiar with the situation. “We have been pursuing this location for some time and believe that we will be able to confirm the status of this potential site shortly,” said Karen Meleta, a spokesperson for ShopRite.
ShopRite is located on 250 sites throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, including one on MacDonald Avenue in Brooklyn. Its selection for the East New York spot generated praise from the powerful United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500.
“UFCW Local 1500 is thrilled that after weeks of supporting the conversations with The Related Company and our employer ShopRite and other interested parties, a deal was reached today to bring to the citizens of East Brooklyn three things they so desperately need: good food, good jobs and good health,” said Patrick Purcell, spokesman for UFCW Local 1500. ShopRite has also had its share of disputes with employee unions, and their disagreements have brought on strikes in some cases.
Walmart opponents lauded the defeat of the national chain’s effort to obtain a foothold in New York City as a serious rebuke to the Arkansas-based discount retailer. “Walmart’s withdrawal from Gateway II shows that when New Yorkers join arms, even the world’s richest retailer is no match for them,” stated Stephanie Yazgi, spokeswoman for Walmart Free NYC.