The hours-long hearing examined Wal-Mart’s potential impact on the city.
Executives from the company declined an invitation to attend.
Prior to the hearing, hundreds attended a rally** against the retailer’s arrival in the city, saying Wal-Mart kills more jobs than it creates. They also pointed to a history of poor labor practices and gender discrimination.
The company rejects all of those claims, insisting that it pays more than the competition, helps small businesses and will bring much-needed jobs to some neighborhoods. It also cited a poll which found 71 percent of New Yorkers favor Wal-Mart.
Leaders say that the company’s refusal to testify makes it seem guilty.
"If you’re proud of yourself, you show up," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "If you’re proud of yourself, you tout what you have. If you’re not proud of yourself, if you know you’re lying, you hide in the background. And that is what Wal-Mart has done today and that’s just another example of sadly why they are not the right company for New York City."
"Why would we want to walk into a Wal-Mart when you won’t even have a discussion with New Yorkers?" asked Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "What kind of disrespect are you showing to one of the biggest economic markets in the world? So Wal-Mart, this is New York. We’re proud of it. We love our city and if you want to come here ever, you’ve got to create a whole new business model because it’s not happening any time soon. No to Wal-Mart."
Those who did testify in support of Wal-Mart accused City Council members of grandstanding on the issue.
"This is about jobs, this is about the survival of the people in the community and we gotta stop this political brouhaha. Your 15 minutes of fame is up. It’s time for us to do business and get people to work in New York," said Community Activist Tony Herbert.
Depending on the store’s size and location — which will determine whether a zoning change is needed — the City Council may or may not ultimately have to sign off on any plan to bring the retailer to the five boroughs.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has already collected 30,000 signatures as part of a petition drive.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also defended the company’s right to open its doors in the city, saying government shouldn’t decide where people can shop.
"Anybody that’s tried to manage the marketplace, it’s not turned out very well. The Soviet Union is a good example," Bloomberg told reporters Thursday.
Not all business owners who spoke with NY1 Thursday morning said they were worried about the company’s possible arrival.
"You know, this business has been here over 30 years and we own the building and everything, said the owner of a East New York grocery store. So, I mean, sales may go down a bit because people are curious, but I don’t think it’s much. We’re not that worried."
Shoppers who spoke with NY1 said they are more focused on who has better prices.
"Everyone needs to budget, so we need that Wal-Mart to get the good low prices, said one shopper.
They all practically have the same stuff, same prices, said another.
Wal-Mart says it is having private discussions with elected officials and community leaders and has not named a prospective location.
The company also recently struck a deal with the Building and Construction Trade Council that vows any store built in the city will be done with union labor.
**Supported by Make the Road New York (MRNY).
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