April, 2011

ANTI-WALMART FLASH MOB STRIKES AGAIN

A few weeks after focusing on Related Co., the flash mob disrupts Walmart CEO Mike Duke appearance in Bryant Park

Activists promise to continue disrupting Walmart and its partners

New York, NY—New York, NY—A hundred singing and dancing activists converged on Bryant Park on Wednesday to protest Walmart for its record of mistreating women, African Americans and Latinos and the LGBT community, and to confront Walmart CEO Mike Duke in person.

New York Jobs with Justice and members of the Walmart-Free NYC Coalition, including RWDSU, the Retail Action Project, New York Communities for Change, and Make the Road NY, held up yellow frowny-face masks and surrounded the windows of the Bryant Park Grill, chanting “Walmart cheats, Walmart hates, Walmart discriminates!” for nearly an hour as Mike Duke spoke inside.

Amid the chanting, a brass band loudly performed a dance number in front of the windows called “Mr. Walmart,” modeled on Jean Knight’s  “Mr. Big Stuff,” with a drag-clad Lady Liberty telling a performer dressed as Mr. Walmart on stilts, “Who do you think you are?/ Mr. Walmart/ You’re never gonna get my love.”

“Walmart can spend as much money as it wants to buy its way into New York,” said Javier Valdes, Deputy Director of Make the Road NY, one of New York City’s largest community organizations.  “But that doesn’t change the fact that Walmart doesn’t share New York’s values.  They have settled a lawsuit for discriminating against black truck drivers, fired Latino workers who complained about being called racial slurs, and is facing the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.”

Walmart is reportedly looking to open many stores throughout the five boroughs.  One possible location is the Gateway II development in East New York, Brooklyn, which is being developed by the Related Companies, who was the focus of the first Anti-Walmart flash mob.  The site was subject to a lengthy community planning process, and Related’s recently reported move to introduce a Walmart into those plans without community consent have raised a flurry of opposition from concerned residents, community organizations and local elected officials.

At a recent Housing Preservation and Development hearing, concerns were raised that the City-sponsored appraisal of the land was incomplete.

According to event organizer Austin Guest of NY Jobs with Justice, “If Walmart opens stores in our city, there is no indication that they will stop their track record of killing local jobs, treating workers poorly, and eliminating competition from responsible employers. We will keep following Walmart and its allies to make sure that New Yorkers know what Walmart will bring with them into New York.”

For more information, visit www.walmartfreenyc.com.

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RELATED COMPANY’S MASSIVE GATEWAY II DEV’T DRAWS FIRE AT HPD PUBLIC HEARING – APPRAISAL OF LAND CALLED “INCOMPLETE”

Developer in the Hot Seat with Controversial Land Deal and Time Warner Center Flash Mob

East New Yorkers Urge Related to Make the Right Choice

New York–  At an HPD public hearing this morning regarding the city’s controversial land transfer to mega-developer Related Companies for its Gateway II development in East New York, Brooklyn, dozens of East New Yorkers raised concerns about Walmart eyeing the site as it desperately tries to buoy its stalled U.S. growth by breaking into the New York City market.

According to testimony at the hearing, the appraisal – a key component of the land transfer – was incomplete.  “The current appraisal does not engage in a fundamental component of any adequate appraisal, which is to account for various building scenarios when calculating the value of the land,” explained Josh Kellerman from Jobs with Justice.  “Rather than look at all scenarios allowed under the zoning, it only looked at one scenario suggested by the developer, Related.”

“Instead of playing by the rules and participating in public hearings and our community’s zoning process, Walmart is trying to buy its way in with an expensive PR campaign,” said Val Holder, an East New York resident and community leader. “And now Related Companies appears to be taking a page from the company’s playbook, by refusing to answer on the record whether it’s in talks with Walmart, and if so, for which locations.”

In seeking zoning approval for the site, Related Companies skirted questions about Walmart, and now the developer is drawing mounting pressure for its flirtation with the unwelcome retailer. Today’s public hearing showdown comes on the heels of a flash mob at the developer’s headquarters on Friday afternoon, and a February request by elected officials that the developer not do business with Walmart.

“Why would Related Companies partner with a retailer like Walmart, with a track record of not living up to its claims? On minority hiring, wages, job creation, even LGBT issues—the slick rhetoric Walmart uses to win its way into cities doesn’t live up to the hype,” said Maria Maisonet, a New York Communities for Change member and community leader in East New York.

At the hearing, community leaders argued that instead of playing by the rules- participating in public hearings, and answering tough questions– Walmart launched a massive political and public relations campaign, promising to create new jobs with competitive pay. The retailer made the same promises to win approval in other cities—promises which have since been broken.

East New Yorkers urged Related Companies to put the needs of the community first, and instead choose retailers like Shoprite, who has publicly expressed interest in the site, and is more in-line with New York’s values.

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