The minute that the Daily News had pointed out the rumor that Wal-Mart was eying Willets Point the developers-a duo of usual suspects, Related and Sterling Equities-immediately went into damage control mode to head this rumor off at the pass. The Daily News rushed yesterday to contradict its own story:
"The developers of a mall complex next to Citi Field have put the kibosh on Walmart’s behind-the-scenes effort to be included in the project. The big box retailer has been quietly lobbying Queens officials, as the Daily News reported Wednesday, but the Queens Development Group broke its silence to dismiss the notion that Walmart might be included in the Willets Point West project.
“We have not had any talks with Walmart … and we have absolutely no intention of discussing this site with them,” the developers, a partnership between the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, said in a statement."
How serious was this damage control effort? Very serious since the spokesperson for the dynamic duo even sent WPU a statement of denial-made our day in fact. But the News is still reporting the real estate giant's interest: "Nonetheless, two Queens officials told The News that Walmart told them that it was very interested in the site."
The Queens Courier also is reporting the denials-and goes on to point out just how mammoth the proposed shopping center will be: "This comes after reports came out that Walmart was eyeing a spot in Willets Point, where the planned shopping center adjacent to Citi Field will house some 200 stores."
This mini-controversy is, of course, a cautionary tale. All would do well to remember the denials by Related when the Gateway Mall was being built-tissue thin lies as it turned out when Wal-Mart became a hot topic in the past two years. Related had told CM Barron to his face that there would be no Wal-Mart. How did that work out?
Still, with 200 retail spaces to fill it's hard to imagine that they will all be small local shops-and a big box agenda is always suspected when related is in the mix. So if this ever gets to city council oversight than Related's feet need to be held to the firs-on this site and in Brooklyn as well. Their word is simply no good.