Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wal-Mart at Willets Point?

In an Op-ed in the Greenpoint News CM Julissa Ferreras comes out strongly against Wal-Mart in any development at Willets Point:

"It was recently reported that Walmart, the low-wage retailer, is trying to sneak into New York City at the Willets Point development. Walmart has a history of discrimination, poor pay, anti-union behavior and abuse that is not welcome in my community, or any part of our city. Walmart’s lobbyists are sneaking around looking for possible locations across the five boroughs. Instead of being honest about its intentions, the retailer is pushing a PR campaign to try and clean-up its contaminated image in order to win approval. We can’t allow this to work."

But isn't this a red herring? Does anyone seriously think that Wal-Mart would be given an approval for such a controversial location? More interesting is Ferreras' observations about what should be done at the site:

"We have a real opportunity at Willets Point. We can make it an incredible site that all New Yorkers can enjoy. It can enhance living standards for our community, and with the right businesses, create hundreds of new jobs with wages that will allow families to support themselves."

Alright but what does that mean for a project that has already gotten rid of the living wage and affordable housing component that made the original idea attractive in the first place? The project is for a box store anchored mall but Ferreras tells us:

"Our community does not need a big-box, low-road employer that puts profits before people. We should strive to make Willets Point an example for other development sites throughout the city by taking into account what local residents want and ensuring their best interests our first priority."

Willets Point is already home to hundreds of businesses and thousands of mostly immigrant/Hispanic workers. What kind of example is set by throwing these folks off of their land so that the Mets and Related can build their mall? The council member goes on to tell us:

"The plan for Willets Point moving forward must be sustainable, fair, and provide long-term economic growth for our community."

How does this sentiment jibe with what EDC has now come up with? Will Ferreras support an unsustainable traffic nightmare mall that doesn't insure a living wage for its retail workers-or housing for those in dire need of it? Time will tell, but if we follow the sentiments that Ferreras has laid out, the current plan should definitely be discarded and a new set of ideas entertained that reflect the concept of fairness, equity and sustainability.