By Kareem Johnson
MANHATTAN — Mega-retailer Walmart's one million dollar donation for citywide summer initiatives announced last week is just an attempt to buy goodwill with New York City, opponents say.
"Walmart can't be trusted," Stephanie Yazgi, a spokewoman for opposition group Walmart Free NYC said in a public statement, arguing that the big box retailer's donations are part of an increased lobbying effort.
"The mega-retailer can't boost its flagging U.S. sales unless it expands into the nation's largest cities, so it's trying to break its way into New York with new store formats and new products, and most importantly — a new image," the statement reads.
The retailer announced Thursday it would pump more than a million dollars into three citywide summer program initiatives that are part a broader campaign to fight hunger.
"Walmart is committed to promoting education, health and wellness, and economic opportunity in New York City," spokesman Steven Restivo said in press statement announcing the grants.
The funds distributed in New York are part of a $25 million program by Walmart to "expand learning, nutrition, and employment services elementary, middle and high school students throughout the summer months when schools are closed," according to the statement. Calls to Walmart for comment were not returned.
The infusion of money comes as Walmart does a full-court press to move along plans to build stores in the city.
Not all New Yorkers are against the big box retailer.
Two Hell's Kitchen women, Nivia Ceballo, and Dahlia DuPerrior, take mass transit to New Jersey to shop at Walmart and would welcome a store in Manhattan, they told DNAinfo in February.
Walmart stores in New York City are a hotly contested issue, with a Quinnipiac University poll suggesting that New Yorkers would welcome a store if it was convenient despite outspoken opposition from groups such as Walmart Free NYC.
The poll showed that 68 percent of city resident respondents said they would frequent Walmart if in the city, yet 63 percent of those polled acknowledged the retailer could be tough on its employees and pushes out 'mom and pop' competitors.