Wal-Mart Welcome in New York, Poll Says

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Wal-Mart ( WMT) should be welcome in New York City, according to readers of TheStreet.

In a poll last week, 75.2% of those taking the survey said the discount behemoth should come to the Big Apple, while 24.8% were opposed to the company placing roots in any of the boroughs.

Still, while the majority of TheStreet readers appear to be proponents of Wal-Mart, the city has been up in arms over the possibility of the No. 1 retailer taking over.

Wal-Mart vs. Drugstores: Which Will Win NYC?

Last week, New York's city council hosted a meeting in Lower Manhattan to discuss just how big an effect Wal-Mart would have on small businesses. Noticeably absent from the crowd of politicians, union members and protestors outside, was the company itself, which refused to participate in the hearing on the grounds that " it does not appear to consider the impact of the hundreds of NYC stores operated by these companies; rather it focuses solely on Walmart. Since we have not announced a store for New York City, I respectfully suggest the committee first conduct a thoughtful examination of the existing impact of large grocers and retailers on small businesses in New York City before embarking on a hypothetical exercise."

This didn't sit well with Christine Quinn, council speaker.

"Wal-Mart's absence and refusal to attend only leads me to further skepticism about them as a company," Quinn said.

"You cannot come to New York City and behave the way you have behaved in other parts of the country," Quinn continued. "New York City will simply not stand for it."

During the four-hour meeting, opponents of Wal-Mart chastised the company for its history of not working with unions and low wages, and said it would put mom-and-pop shops out of business and create traffic jams.

Councilman Charles Barron, who represents east New York, heeded this warning: "Don't even think about coming into east New York. We're desperate for jobs, but we're not going to take anything. We want jobs with dignity, jobs with integrity, jobs with self-respect."

But not all the comments were anti-Wal-Mart.

Tony Herbert, chairman of the Brooklyn chapter of the Walmart2NYC campaign, said 50 volunteers collected the signatures over the past three weeks.

"At the end of the day we have a lot of people suffering," he said. "I think Walmart brings an opportunity for jobs."

Another proponent of Wal-Mart is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who separately commented, "This city should be open to business to anyone who wants to come here. There is a big demand for shopping at Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart has launched a dedicated Web site to its efforts in New York City, as well as a local advertising campaign that takes shots at the city council.

The company has been searching the five boroughs for a potential location for a store, but has yet to decide on a space. The main criteria: sites that don't need zoning changes or government permits. It plans to open smaller-format locations, some of which could be as tiny as local grocery stores.

This comes after Wal-Mart won a fight last summer to build more stores in Chicago after a six-year standoff.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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