Timeline: Wal-Mart’s Wooing of New York Might Be Ending

| July 19, 2011 6:00 AM | Updated: November 14, 2011 3:03 PM

Wal-Mart, traditionally situated in rural and suburban locales, is pushing for an urban location in New York City. Flickr/Walmart Store.

On Monday, Wal-Mart announced its annual holiday charitable donations, totaling $19 million. None of the donations will go directly to New York City organizations, reported Crain’s. The news may come as a surprise to many, since Wal-Mart has been making large donations to the city for over a year in an effort to win over resistant New Yorkers.

Does this mean the retail giant is giving up on its big apple dreams?

As the possibility of Wal-mart coming to New York City stirs debate among residents, we document the process.

December 8, 2004: The Daily News reports that Wal-Mart plans to open a location in Rego Park, Queens, in 2008. Reactions are mixed, as some residents see a Wal-Mart as a convenience, while labor groups, such as the New York City Central Labor Council, oppose the project and plan to pressure government bodies to reject the proposal.

New York artist Norm Magnusson's mocking road sign echoes the sentiments of many anti-Wal-Mart New Yorkers. The sign purports to mark the spot where a local market once stood before being put out of business by a big box store. Photo courtesy of the Van Brunt Gallery.

February 24, 2005: Vornado Realty Trust, the developer of the Rego Park project, drops its plan for a 132,00-square-foot retail location. A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart says that they are continuing to look at other locations in New York City as possible sites for new stores.

August 22, 2005: The New York Times reports on a new campaign to bring a Wal-Mart to Staten Island.

March 28, 2007: In a meeting with the New York Times, Wal-Mart’s chief executive acknowledges a lack of success in trying to open a New York store, and says that he doesn’t “care if we are ever here.” Ed Ott, executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council, agrees, stating, “we don’t need Wal-Mart.”

July 12, 2010: Wal-Mart gives a $15,000 contribution to the New York State Senate Democrats. The New York Postreporting on August 24, speculates that Wal-Mart hopes to put a store in the Brooklyn district of State Senate leader John Sampson.

November 12, 2010: Spokesman Steven Restivo confirms that Wal-Mart is once again surveying possible store locations in the city, and a chairwoman for a real estate group reveals that the company has been looking  in Manhattan, reports Crain’s.

December 12, 2010: New York City Council reschedules a planned hearing about Wal-Mart’s efforts to move into the city until January. Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn cites the need of a “bigger room.”

January 18, 2011: The retail chain’s foundation contributes $382, 879 to the Food Bank for New York City, intended to go toward improvements that would reduce the Food Bank’s energy costs.

February 3, 2011: City Council holds its hearing about the economic impact of Wal-Mart stores in New York City, and Wal-Mart does not attend. Residents, as well as Quinn, express skepticism about the future of the business in the city.

June 20, 2011: Crain’s reports that Quinn is in talks with Wal-Mart to stock its potential New York locations with produce from the farmer’s market in Hunts Point Terminal.

July 5, 2011: Wal-Mart pledges a donation of  $4 million for the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Mayor Michael Bloomberg appears with executives from the corporation in a press conference to make the announcement. Bloomberg, as well as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, come out in support of this contribution. “We want the jobs that stores like Wal-Mart provide, and we want people who live in the city to be able to buy products from Wal-Mart,” says Bloomberg.

July 7, 2011: The New York Post reports a $250,000 donation from Wal-Mart to a summer meals program that will bring food, in two refrigerated trucks, to children in Flushing Meadows Park, Orchard Beach and other locations.

July 11, 2011: The New York Post reports that Wal-Mart is a corporate sponsor for Markowitz’s Martin Luther King, Jr. summer concert series in Brooklyn, for a cost of about $150,000. In response to the donation, City Councilwoman Letitia James says, “Dr. King fought and died for fair wages, and taking this money would be a dishonor to his legacy.” Markowitz says that he is not “philosophically opposed” to the company.

July 18, 2011: The Wall Street Journal reports that developer Related Cos. is in lease negotiations with Wal-Mart about a new shopping mall location in southeast Brooklyn, west of Howard Beach. Related has yet to purchase a portion of the site from the state, but the process does not require a vote by city council, leading some elected officials to feel that Wal-Mart’s movement into New York City is inevitable.

July 20, 2011: After Crain’s tweets that Bike New York may have to cancel its free summer bike instruction program, following the theft of $10,000 worth of the non-profit’s equipment, Wal-Mart offers to replace the stolen goods, the paper reports.

July 22: Over 100 protesters gather in front of Related’s offices in Manhattan to protest the developer’s negotiations with Wal-Mart, the Brooklyn Eagle reported.

July 26: The Daily News reports that Wal-Mart executives will buy breakfast for a selection of community leaders to try and sway the undecided. Noticeably absent from Wal-Mart’s guest list are community members who have expressed opposition to the company.

July 28: A new poll by Quinnipiac University suggests that New Yorkers are more pro-Wal-Mart than one might expect. According to the poll, 69 percent of New York City voters say they would shop at Wal-Mart if it were convenient and 72 percent believe Wal-Mart’s lower prices would benefit New Yorkers. However, 70 percent of those polled say they believe Wal-Mart would hurt local small businesses.

August 4: Wal-Mart donates $200,000 to two New York City environmental projects. The New York Botanical garden receives $100,000 for its project to clean the Bronx River shoreline, and the city Department of Environmental Protection gets $100,000 toward its effort to restore two marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, reported Crain’s.

August 12: More than six in ten – 64 percent — of city residents would like to have a Wal-Mart store in their community, while 31 percent oppose such a plan and five percent are unsure, Marist Poll reported.

  • BRUCE B. – FOREST HILLS

    New York City is too big a market for Wal-Mart to ignore and it is probably inevitable that they will find a space and open within the city limits. What is needed is to ensure that they will not only source locally as much as possible, but will continue to support NYC projects & charities at the level or above that is noted in this article. What level of support and how much money has been donated by Wal-Mart for local activities and causes in Nassau County since their stores have been open in Westbury and Green Acres? Both of those stores appear to be doing well and Green Acres is certainly attracting a large number of Queens residents. To steal from a popular movie of the past, where Wal-Mart is concerned, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME! ! I think it is only a matter of time before they do and our political leaders need to work out the best deal for all concerned – residents, workers & organizations.

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