The first Walmart store may soon rise in East New York as plans for Gateway II shopping center near Jamaica Bay seem to be brewing. Developers owning the site had cut off talks with other supermarket chains and focused on the deal with Walmart.
A real estate source said they are comfortable that this would happen although the retail giant and Related Companies, the developer, have yet to confirm the plans. The City Council has a scheduled impact hearing with Walmart this week but was moved to January 12. A larger venue is needed to accommodate all the groups that may have something to air about the plan.
Arturo Payambs, Compare Supermarket’s owner near the site likened the situation to David and Goliath, Walmart being a multi-billion dollar corporation as opposed to small businesses like his. He sees his business being crushed by a store with power to tell Pepsi Co. or Coca-Cola what to do.
Council members who are partly motivated by opposition against the retailer to censure the plan move to have the January 12 hearing as a preventive plan prior to the finalization of Walmart’s plan.
Officials from Walmart said they have not yet decided to be present in the hearing. They mock politicians’ fuss over the chain’s intention when other chains like Target already have a Gateway store. Walmart Director of Community Affairs, Steve Restivo said that they do not understand the desire to spend time and resources on a hearing especially without a store or an announced project in the area.
Restivo mentioned a $5.7 Walmart expenditure on merchandise and services from 835 suppliers whose names were not disclosed but mostly small businesses. He also insisted that the number would go up once a store opens in the five regions.
With Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s support and Related’s plan already approved even before it was known to lawmakers that Walmart was the possible occupant, Walmart won’t require approval for a Gateway store.
Challengers such as Councilman Charles Barron and Council Speaker Christine Quinn vow to find a halt to it. East New York residents on the other hand, welcome the store in their area as they even go outside the city to shop at other Walmart stores.
Sisco Boone, 27, of East New York said with the prices in their area too high, Walmart prices would be good and will bring more jobs. Anthony De Jesus, 35, working at Hardware Houseware for 15 years opposed that the store suffered from competition from Related’s Gateway I which housed a Home Depot that opened in 2007. He fears losing his job when Walmart comes but acknowledged Walmart’s cheaper prices having bought all his holiday gifts at a Long Island branch.