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US: Proposal to Build a Wal-Mart in Southern S.I. Is Scrapped

by Steven GreenhouseThe New York Times
August 25th, 2006

Wal-Mart’s plans to open its first New York City store at the southern tip of Staten Island have fallen through, company officials confirmed yesterday.

The Ohio real estate company that was hoping to develop the site, Cedarwood Development, said it was dropping the project because it would have cost too much to remove toxic chemicals from the site on Richmond Valley Road.

But opponents who fought against Wal-Mart’s plans to open on Staten Island asserted that the cost of an environmental cleanup was a pretext, asserting that the plan had been dropped because of widespread community opposition.

“The only thing toxic on the site was the lack of public support that the store had,” said Richard Lipsky, coordinator of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, a union-backed group that is the main anti-Wal-Mart coalition in New York.

Many Staten Island residents opposed the Wal-Mart store because they feared it would greatly increase traffic, while the city’s labor unions have battled Wal-Mart’s plans, asserting that its wages are too low and might undercut unionized supermarkets.

The Staten Island Advance reported yesterday about the plans being dropped for the Wal-Mart store.

According to that newspaper, Cedarwood dropped its plans because of the cost of an environmental cleanup at the 18-acre site where Lucent Technologies, the owner of the site, once recycled telecommunications equipment.

“The remediation program needed at the site has caused a change in the site’s configuration to a point where it is no longer suitable for a Wal-Mart store,” said Philip H. Serghini, a senior community affairs manager for Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer. “We continue to consider our options in Staten Island and throughout the five boroughs.”

In February 2005, Wal-Mart dropped plans to open a store in Rego Park, Queens, after it faced intense opposition from Queens residents and labor unions.

Wal-Mart was cooperating with another developer that had sought to bring Wal-Mart to a site in Mariners Harbor on Staten Island, but those plans have largely been frustrated by concerns about federal wetlands.

Several members of the City Council had threatened to do their utmost to prevent the Wal-Mart planned for Richmond Valley Road from obtaining the approvals it needed.

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