By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — The city’s labor unions and retail giant Walmart are squaring off over renewed plans to open stores within New York City, according to published reports.
In September, word broke that the company was looking to open a store in the Big Apple, as part of a national effort to penetrate urban markets around the country.
Walmart, which boasts 8,692 locations in 15 countries, has not yet managed to break into New York City, despite previous attempts. In 2005, a defeated H. Lee Scott Jr., Walmart’s former CEO, told the New York Times, “I don’t think it’s worth the effort,” following a failed effort to open stores in Queens and Staten Island.
But Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo confirmed that the company was again evaluating opportunities within the city on Friday, and the chairwoman for the Prudential Douglas Elliman retail group, Faith Hope Consolo, told Crain’s that the chain was perusing sites in Manhattan.
East Harlem, which is already home to Walmart competitors like Target and Costco, and Ladies Mile, the landmarked retail strip on Sixth Avenue between 15th and 24th Streets, were both possibilities for the new location, Consolo told the Crain's.
Restivo would not confirm whether the company was considering sites in either area.
If Walmart were to open a location in New York City, it would have to surmount intense opposition from local labor leaders, who argue that the chain would worsen conditions for city workers, despite creating jobs.
"They provide a model for others to follow,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union argued in Friday's New York Post. “Their model is a destructive force. The jobs they create keep people in poverty."
Walmart insists that its presence would have a positive impact on the local economy, bringing jobs and low-cost goods to residents, and they’ve hired Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, to help them make their case, Crain’s reported.
The company also made recent public relations efforts within the city, serving as the principal sponsors of Thursday’s New York City Veteran’s Day Parade, although Walmart said the sponsorship was not an attempt to woo New Yorkers, according to WNYC.
Responding to concerns about how a Walmart store might affect the Manhattan landscape, Restivo assured DNAinfo that any new store would "be a reflection of the neighborhood it’s in."