Attention, job seekers and bargain hunters: Walmart is on the way to a neighborhood near you. That’s right — no more trips to Long Island or New Jersey to get those money-saving deals. The American retail giant is eyeing several possible store locations within the five boroughs.
And in addition to savings at the cash register, the plan to open the first Walmart in New York City also promises to create thousands of desperately needed jobs. While this is good news and long overdue since Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Target are already here, there are, of course, the special interest groups that are not happy. Rather than welcome the prospect of lower food bills and new jobs for the community, the anti-Walmart coalition is pulling out all the stops to prevent the company from gaining a foothold in the Big Apple.
They falsely claim that allowing Walmart into the city would have a devastating impact on small businesses and assert that big box stores like Walmart lower the standard of living in surrounding communities. They are not alone. Walmart’s potential competitors are also joining the chorus of naysayers. Gristedes Supermarket founder and CEO John Catsimatidis is one example.
Competition in business will always benefit the consumer. Competition is good. That is what capitalism is all about. For example, a quick price check revealed that a gallon of milk at a Gristedes Manhattan supermarket currently sells for $4.59 while the Walmart in Valley Stream only charges $3.29 per gallon. That is a $1.30 difference. Now ask yourself: Why pay more? Imagine how much extra money shoppers could save on bread, coffee, cereal, eggs, etc., if Walmart opened up shop here.
The debate over Walmart boils down to more than just dollars and cents. A recent report issued by the City Council showed that some 3 million New Yorkers lack adequate access to fresh produce or grocery stores, a major day-to-day problem for local residents. As members of the Council, it is not our role to dictate to consumers and constituents where they spend their hard-earned dollars or where they earn them.
Consider this: Last year, city residents spent more than $165 million at Walmart stores outside the five boroughs or online at the company’s website. Of that $165 million, $80 million was spent by Queens residents, with the majority of that money flowing to Long Island. Because of this, the city continues to lose out on much-needed tax revenue, despite the fact that a majority of New Yorkers want Walmart. According to a recent poll, 71 percent of city residents say they favor allowing Walmart to open in the city, with 63 percent going as far as to say they support a Walmart in their own neighborhood.
The Council has no business blocking economic development, especially during these tough economic times. If Walmart wants to come to New York City, the politicians, lobbyists and talking heads should get out of the way. The people of this city deserve choices and expect nothing less.