By Anna Gustafson
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) announced Sunday he plans to introduce a bill that would protect shoppers and store staff from “dangerous shopping frenzies,” such as the one that killed a Jamaica man who was trampled to death in a stampede of customers on Black Friday at Wal-Mart in the Green Acres Mall.
The bill would mandate appropriate security measures at stores and would hold retailers accountable when people are injured, Gennaro said at a Sunday press conference at City Hall.
“It’s called Black Friday because stores’ accounting books go into the black, but for one family this year, it refers to the untimely death of a young son and brother,” Gennaro said at City Hall Sunday. “The events of this week demand that government steps in to require retailers to take common-sense measures to protect workers and shoppers from the perils of these unsafe free-for-alls.”
The councilman is still working on the specifics of the bill, but Gennaro said the legislation would require shopping centers and large retailers to deploy security personnel trained in crowd control when holding “doorbuster sales,” which entice shoppers to line up outside the store early and potentially rush entrances when the retailer opens.
“These early morning, middle of the night crushes of shoppers are essentially street activities and should be regulated,” Gennaro said. “There should be requirements put forth, which fortunately some retailers already observe and they have security personnel and crowd control. But, some don’t, and we have to make sure that in every case, that is the case.”
Gennaro is crafting this legislation in response to the death of Jdimytai Damour, who worked at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart, where he was crushed to death after a throng of early-morning shoppers knocked him down and stepped on him as they rushed into the store at 5 a.m. to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
Nassau County police have said the store did not have enough security personnel on site to deal with the 2,000 people waiting to enter the store. Wal-Mart officials said they had prepared for the sizable crowds with plenty of security.
“No one should have to go to work wondering if there’s going to be appropriate crowd control,” Gennaro said. “People shouldn’t have to go to work and end up giving their life.”
Gennaro said his staff members have told the Damour family of the legislation.
“We want the family to know we’ll do everything in our power to change the law so people like Jdimytai Damour aren’t hurt, or killed, in the future,” Gennaro said.
The councilman said he and his staff plan to consult with shoppers, safety experts and retailers to determine the bill’s specifics, including staffing levels.
“What’s important right now is that we recognize that this is a problem and that government has a role in addressing it,” Gennaro said.
Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said they, too, were considering legislation similar to Gennaro’s. The councilman said he hopes “that New York state as a whole would follow suit.”