June 24, 2021

A Respite in Efforts by Wal-Mart in New York

The company has pulled back after its push to open a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn fell through and after it terminated its contracts with five lobbyist-consultants it had hired to help it win approval for that project.

The plans have stalled during this year’s intensely fought mayoral primary in which several of the Democratic candidates are fierce critics of Wal-Mart and have backed union efforts to block the retailer’s entry to New York. Having saturated many suburban and rural areas, Wal-Mart has long had its eyes on New York City, the nation’s largest center for consumerism, as part of its effort to expand into highly populated urban areas.

Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, acknowledged a partial pullback.

“Once we knew we weren’t moving forward in East New York, we made a common-sense decision to scale back some of our Brooklyn-related activities,” he said. He confirmed that Wal-Mart had cut back on the lobbyists and consultants it used for the Brooklyn project.

One of those consultants, who insisted on anonymity for fear of angering Wal-Mart officials, said the retailer had all but shut down its efforts in New York. “They’ve not pushing at all,” the consultant said in an interview. “They’re all but packed it up and left.”

However, a person familiar with Wal-Mart’s plans in the city, who asked not to be named because publicly speaking about the company was not authorized, said it was now interested in sites already zoned for retail to minimize conflict with public officials.

“Coming to New York’s a big deal, and if you do it, you want to get it right and to be successful,” this person said.

Many public officials say they will continue to fight a Wal-Mart city store. They hailed the latest developments, asserting that Wal-Mart had been beaten by union and community opposition.

Mr. Restivo said Wal-Mart was not giving up. “We remain committed to opening stores all across the U.S., including in large cities,” he said, adding that Wal-Mart would continue to evaluate opportunities in the city.

Wal-Mart’s reputation has been undercut by recent bad publicity, including accusations reported in an investigation by The New York Times that Wal-Mart executives had bribed many Mexican officials and that some of its suppliers were major customers of an apparel factory in Bangladesh where a fire killed 112 workers in November. Labor unions have done their utmost to keep Wal-Mart out of New York City, asserting that its wages and benefits are too low and that it could put union supermarkets out of business.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was long rumored to become a tenant at the Gateway II development in Brooklyn, but in September, the company said it would not open there after all. Wal-Mart officials said its East New York plans fell through because it could not come to financial terms with the developer.

Nevertheless, Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor — and a frequent critic of Wal-Mart — said, “However Wal-Mart wants to spin it, they were up against tremendous political and community opposition that made it impossible for them to open a store in New York.”

“As long as Wal-Mart’s behavior remains the same, they’re not welcome in New York City,” she added. “New York isn’t changing. Wal-Mart has to change.”

Bill de Blasio, the New York City public advocate. who is also running for mayor, said Wal-Mart was no longer nearly as loud or visible in New York as it was a year or two ago.

Mr. de Blasio, who has issued several anti-Wal-Mart reports, including one that argued that Wal-Mart’s entry would cause a loss of jobs in New York, said Wal-Mart mounted a vigorous public relations campaign in 2010, 2011 and part of 2012. Radio ads, direct mail and targeted charitable donations were made to try to win community support.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/business/a-respite-in-efforts-by-wal-mart-in-new-york.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

In Village’s Fight Over Gas Drilling, Civility Is Fading

Computer-generated, unsigned and sent to about 10 other opponents of a practice known as fracking, it compared them to Nazis and said they were being watched while picking up their children at school in their minivans.

Jennifer Huntington’s abuse is more public, like comments online suggesting that people find out where her dairy sells its milk so that they can stop buying it, or the warning that her farm, which has a lease with a gas company, “will fall like a house of cards when your water is poisoned.” She and other drilling proponents have also been called “sellout landowners that prostitute themselves for money.”

The debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the injection of huge quantities of chemically treated water underground to free up natural gas, has become increasingly contentious across the Eastern United States, with dozens of communities passing or considering bans. But that ill will often takes its most intimate form in small towns and rural areas like this one, best known as the home of baseball’s Hall of Fame, where fracking has emerged as the defining, non-negotiable political issue.

The dispute has pitted neighbor against neighbor, and has often set people who live in suburbs or villages against the farmers and landowners who live outside them. The discord is compounded by hard times on both sides and by communication online giving everyone instant access to limitless information confirming their point of view.

And if gas companies have the power and money, fracking opponents, who are concerned about ecological threats like the possible contamination of drinking water, often have the numbers and the intensity to dominate local discourse. “There’s no arguing with a person who is opposed to hydrofracking,” said Bill Michaels, a councilman in the Town of Otsego, which includes parts of Cooperstown. After waiting to take a position, he eventually supported changes to the town’s land-use law that would prohibit fracking, but he still faces opposition from a slate of antifracking candidates. “There is no debate or conversation,” he added. “This is so important to so many people it’s pretty much hijacked everything else.”

The state plans to hold hearings in November before issuing final regulations on gas drilling, and the first gas wells drilled under the new rules could be possible next year.

As it turns out, despite the furor here, the Marcellus Shale, a vast rock formation under New York, Pennsylvania and other states, is so shallow near Cooperstown it is not clear how much gas would be available and what kind of drilling would take place here. And no one expects that fracking will ever come to Cooperstown itself.

Still, at the top of the Village of Cooperstown’s Web site is a statement recommending a statewide ban on gas drilling and fracking. Middlefield, the other town that includes parts of the Village of Cooperstown, was one of the first municipalities to ban gas drilling through changes to its master plan and zoning.

More than 30 antifracking candidates are running for office in Otsego County in November.

The dispute is also running like an electric current through everyday life. Ms. Jastremski, who five years ago moved back to family-owned land when her husband became an English professor at the State University of New York at Oneonta, thought she had found the perfect place to raise her two children, replete with chicken coops, bee hives and a vegetable garden.

But as she became aware of leases that would allow drilling for gas on various properties in the area, she became increasingly wrapped up in fracking politics. Now, she says, she stays up at night crying over what she sees as the possibility of polluted water, an industrialized landscape and having to leave her home as its value plummets. She said she understood the economic pressures facing some farmers, but could not excuse people who want drilling on their land.

“I think even if individuals here are not incredibly greedy, they are being sucked into a corporate greed that’s at work in our country,” she said. “They’re seeing dollar signs everywhere, and they’re not seeing the bigger picture that they’re harming their neighbors.”

Ms. Jastremski, 43, who has a Ph.D. in Slavic Studies and works as a technical writer, says she is uncomfortable with the discord surrounding the issue, like a clash she had at the gym with another mother who stood to gain from a gas lease, but feels she has no choice but to be vocal.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=31ca1c933ce11523caabcee3bfe2a69c