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City council holds hearing over NYC Wal-Mart

February 3, 2011 3:11:16 PM PST
There were a number of clever chants ringing out from steps of city hall Thursday morning, all about where to buy apples, cheese and eggs in Brooklyn.

Hundreds showed up for a rally and march to a nearby hearing on the potential impact on small businesses if new Wal-Mart opens in East New York.

"We want the small business to stay in business," said Marie Khocharcha, an East New York resident.

"I work at a supermarket ma'am. It affects me, it affects my family. It affects everybody, because it's messing with our wages," said Luis Olmeda, an East New York resident.

Some city leaders argue the retailer kills more jobs than it creates and raised concerns about employee practices.

"Wal-Mart is a company that in the history of the United States has the most gender discrimination claims against them," said Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council.

"If you think you're going to be able to open a big box store, evict people from neighborhoods and create jobs that don't amount to anything, all in the quest for your corporate profits, without coming through this coalition, you have another thing coming," said Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President.

Only a handful of Wal-Mart supporters showed up, but brought these three boxes of petitions with 30,000 signatures in favor of the low price leader.

"We asked a lot of folks not to come. We don't recognize this as something they need to be testifying at. This is a waste of taxpayers' money," said Anthony Herberg, the Wal-Mart Campaign Brooklyn Coordinator.

Wal-Mart hasn't officially announced its opening an East New York location, but is reportedly considering this plot of land near Gateway 2.

It has also waged an aggressive TV, radio, newspaper and internet campaign.

But, no one from the company attended the hearing, which Wal-Mart explained in a written statement, "Our decision not to attend today's hearing has nothing to do with our willingness to answer questions, and everything to do with the hypothetical nature of the proceedings, and the fact that it ignores the impact of the hundreds of similarly sized stores that exist in the city today."

Mayor Bloomberg didn't attend either, but threw his weight behind the project.

"It's not for us to say that some people should pay more or go without a job because some small business may get hurt. That's up to the marketplace and we have an obligation to everyone," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.


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