Developer drops plans to build first Wal-Mart in New York City

Thursday, February 17th 2005, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A real estate developer scrapped plans to build the city's first Wal-Mart store amid intense pressure from residents and union leaders.

The decision, announced by city officials Wednesday, comes as a blow to the retail giant, which has sought for years to move into the lucrative New York City market.

The company had announced Dec. 6 that it would open a new store in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Mia Masten said Wednesday the company had never signed a deal with the developer, Vornado Realty Trust, for the 132,000-square-foot space. She said Wal-Mart was still interested in exploring other locations in the city.

Vornado spokeswoman Roann Kulakoss declined to comment Thursday.

Opponents formed coalitions to block the store immediately after Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, announced plans to expand into New York.

Small businesses feared Wal-Mart would drive many retailers out and residents near the site raised concerns about traffic and parking at the proposed site. Union leaders cited a list of labor offenses against the company, including a recent settlement of allegations that Wal-Mart violated child labor laws and the company's decision to close a Quebec store when workers moved to unionize.

Meanwhile, in California, Wal-Mart Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said Wednesday that the company is renewing efforts to expand its Supercenter stores there. Public outcry had stalled the company's plans there last year.

Scott said that although Wal-Mart's $1 million campaign to gain voter approval for superstore projects in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas failed, it is moving ahead with plans to open 25 new stores in the state this year.

``We're not going to lay down,'' he said. ``We've got nothing to apologize for.''

Analysts have said that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart needs to tap into the New York City and Southern California markets to make up for slow growth elsewhere in recent years.