Crain’s New York Business this week reported on an interesting situation involving Walmart and the hype surrounding the company entry into the city. According to author Greg David, “as the opponents of Walmart continue their campaign to prevent the company from opening stores in New York, it remains a mystery how they intend to do that. David notes that the City Council has no power to intervene in leases signed at existing retail locations, and the company seems more determined than ever to take on the Big Apple.
One possibility is new legislation that would give the Council the power to review all leases that meet certain criteria. Mayor Michael Bloomberg will reject any such bill, which means the Council would have to come up with a two-thirds majority to override his veto. Any law broadly written would be of such reach as to raise all kinds of opposition, and any law narrowly written to apply to Walmart alone would be of dubious legality, according to David.
Another possibility is that labor unions and their allies will raise such a ruckus that landlords will have second thoughts about leasing space to Walmart. After all, any future help a developer needs from city government will run into trouble, right? No, or at least not as long as Michael Bloomberg is running the show, according to David. That's the message from yesterday’s announcement that Related, the company in talks to bring a Walmart to its Gateway project in Brooklyn, won the hotly contested competition to build affordable middle class housing in Queens.
Let's accept the administration's position that Related and its partners offered the best proposal. It is also clear that this is a message that Related will not be penalized for doing business with Walmart. The next flash point in this debate will be the emergence of some sort of legislation in the Council. It will be very interesting to see what the bill attempts to do.