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Walmart shut out of Willets Point development

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 8/10/2012, 10:10 a.m.
A group responsible for development of the Willets Point space next to Citi Field said...
Walmart shut out of Willets Point development

A group responsible for development of the Willets Point space next to Citi Field said Walmart wouldn't be a part of its conception.

Late last week, the Daily News reported that Walmart quietly lobbied city officials to include them in the development of the area near Citi Field that currently houses auto body shops. Regardless, according to the group responsible for the development project, Walmart's lobbying efforts are news to them.

The Queens Development Group, a joint venture of Sterling Equities and the Related Companies, sent a statement to the AmNews saying Walmart was never part of the redevelopment and will never be because the project isn't centered on big box retailers.

"We have not had any talks with Walmart about a location at Willets Point, and we have absolutely no intention of discussing this site with them," read the statement. "There have been and will be no negotiations. They are simply not a part of our plan to build an enclosed retail and entertainment destination at Willets Point that will bring much-needed jobs and economic activity to the area and lead to the development of a new neighborhood."

Sterling Equities is run by Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon. Wilpon owns the New York Mets, who play at Citi Field.

The Willets Point plan includes the construction of a shopping area, hotel rooms, housing, office space and an entertainment complex. According to reports, the entire project would take up 52 acres, with Citi Field boxed in at the center.

DEMOS, a nonpartisan public policy center, recently conducted a study titled "Not Made in America" chronicling how they felt Walmart destroyed American manufacturing jobs. Their reasons included buying non-American goods, forcing layoffs with their U.S. suppliers, pushing companies to move factories overseas and driving competitors to squeeze manufacturing costs resulting in layoffs.

Amy Traub, who authored the report, spoke with the AmNews briefly about this latest New York Walmart story.

"I think it's great that Walmart is not being offered the site, because the company's entry into a new market depresses wages and eliminates more jobs than it creates," said Traub. She repeated her study and other studies that concluded that Walmart forces other businesses to slash prices to keep up and eventually eliminates them, leaving Walmart as the only place in the neighborhood for shopping. Traub also discussed how Walmart could be a major burden for New York City taxpayers if they found a home in the five boroughs.

"There's a tax burden associated with Walmart as well," Traub said. "Walmart employees often rely on Medicaid and other public benefits, since they can't afford the plan that Walmart offers. That would affect the city when it comes to how many benefits they provide." Traub cited studies conducted by the University of California at Berkley's Labor Center and other similar programs.

Related Companies is still in talks with the big box retailer about opening a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Walmart didn't respond to requests for comment.