Local leaders pledged to stonewall Walmart amid rumors the retail giant is eyeing Ridgewood for its first New York City location.
The company has tried to open a location in the city for years, but resistance from public officials and civic leaders has forced it to reconsider. Recent reports have hinted that the company is looking at vacant lots and sites in Ridgewood, and public officials and community leaders are not happy.
“Walmart has a long, documented history of mistreating its workers and driving out local small businesses,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, whose district includes Ridgewood. “Bringing in this store would negatively impact both the commercial and residential areas in Ridgewood.”
Walmart’s opponents say the retail giant provides low-income, part-time jobs and forces small businesses to close because they cannot compete with the chain’s low prices.
Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for minority communities, said her group is gearing up for a war against Walmart to prevent a store from opening anywhere in the city. The group is planning to rally and boycott as well as ask public officials to step up pressure against the mega store.
It is not known whether Walmart is considering a full size, 182,000-square-foot “supercenter” or a smaller Walmart Express measuring about 15,000-square-feet for the city.
Lewis does not approve of either.
“If they put a Walmart Express, it’s like one little bed bug,” she said. “Then in a few blocks there’ll be another bed bug and another and before you know it we’ll be infested [...] We will bring the ruckus and we will bring the noise. We are not playing with these people and we are not afraid of them.”
Nevertheless, a 2011 NY1-Marist poll showed that 64 percent of Queens residents would like a Walmart in their neighborhood, with 76 percent of those supporters saying they would be likely to shop there.
Also last year, residents throughout the city spent more than $215 million at Walmart stores outside city limits. New York is also the top metro market for Walmart.com sales in the country, according to Steven Restivo, the company’s director of communications.
“New Yorkers want us here and residents continue to go out of their way to shop our stores outside the city,” Restivo said.
He added that Walmart creates jobs, citing Chicago, which has nine chains and employs nearly 2,000 people.
Restivo confirmed that the retail giant is still looking for a place to set up shop in the five boroughs, but did not specify whether Ridgewood was on the list.
This would not be the first time the company has tried to enter Queens. In 2005, the chain moved to include a store in Rego Park’s shopping center, but developer Vornado Realty Trust dropped the plans after opposition from the community, according to reports.