Queens wants a Wal-Mart

After more than five years, Wal-Mart is making its third attempt to enter the city’s market and Queens residents are welcoming the big store with open arms.
According to a non-scientific borough-wide poll by The Queens Courier, Queens residents overwhelmingly approve of the idea of the retail giant coming to Queens by 73 percent to 25 percent. The Courier surveyed a total of 246 people from December 17 to December 27.
Among the 180 people polled who wanted a Wal-Mart in the city, but preferably in Queens, was a 42-year-old man from Bayside.
“I’m tired of going to 12 different stores for 12 different things,” the man said.
Two others wanted the “mother” of all big box stores somewhere in the city, just not in Queens. One person wasn’t sure and two others didn’t care. The remaining 61 people said they absolutely didn’t want a Wal-Mart in the city.
“Those big stores take away from the character of the neighborhood,” said a 54-year-old woman from Bellerose. “We need to support the smaller shops.”
The Courier survey reflects the citywide poll results presented by Wal-Mart and compiled by Douglas E. Schoen, LLC. They found that 70 percent of Queens residents said they favored Wal-Mart coming to the city. The poll surveyed 1,000 city residents from December 2 through December 7, and it had a 3 percent margin of error.
Even though most Queens residents The Courier spoke to want a Wal-Mart, many local legislators and community leaders continue to oppose the retail giant’s potential move to the city. They said Wal-Mart has a poor track record of how it treats its employees and it could potentially devastate existing small businesses.
The City Council had originally scheduled a hearing for December 14 on the prospects of opening a Wal-Mart store, but it was pushed back until January 12 in order to accommodate a larger audience. The Council needs to approve any zoning change if a project is over 10,000 square feet. The Council also plans to have at least two more hearings about Wal-Mart’s impact on small business and the company’s labor practices.
A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company is also looking at small and medium size lots in all five boroughs that might be purchased without Council approval.
“I can tell you our real estate selection process has been centered on under-served communities in terms of jobs and access to affordable food,” said Steven Restivo, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, told The Courier last week.
Many Wal-Mart supporters acknowledge a large project like this would create hundreds of jobs for local residents. Cities like New York are seen as growth areas for Wal-Mart, which is the largest employer in the United States with 1.4 million workers.
More than 1,200 New York City residents already work at Wal-Mart stores in the tri-state area. In New York State, Wal-Mart pays employees $12.06 an hour, even though minimum wage in the state is $7.25, according to Restivo.
In addition, sales data from Wal-Mart showed that New Yorkers spent $165 million at Wal-Mart stores outside of the city during the past 12 months, with the largest amount coming from Queens at $80.2 million.

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