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Ever since word began to circulate in December that Wal-Mart was considering a 132,000-square-foot store off Queens Boulevard, the discount retailer faced intense opposition from labor and civic leaders who cited its anti-union practices and the negative impact it would have on small businesses in the borough.
That friction could have pressured Vornado into scratching its plan to have a Wal-Mart store in a complex that included other stores and two 25-story apartment tower, observers said.
The developer, who needs city approval before starting its project, had reportedly been shopping around for other less controversial retailers, such as Kohl's Department Store, to replace Wal-Mart.
"I understand that Vornado has ended negotiations with Wal-Mart to open its doors in my district," said Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights), whose district includes the Rego Park site.
Vornado spokeswoman Wendy Kopsick declined to comment.
Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), chairwoman of the Council's Land Use Committee, spoke with a Vornado official Wednesday who confirmed that negotiations with Wal-Mart had ended, her office said.
Mia Masten, Wal-Mart's director of corporate affairs for the Eastern region, has made it clear that Wal-Mart never signed an official deal with Vornado and was still looking at other sites in the city. She did not return calls seeking to confirm whether Vornado had ended the talks or Wal-Mart had pulled out voluntarily.
Sears said she had spoken with Wal-Mart officials in the past about their corporate practices. She was concerned, she said, over the company's low wages and poor benefits, such as pension and health care - issues labor officials have long raised with the chain.
Said Sears: "I am hopeful that if Wal-Mart attempts to locate another site, whether in Queens or Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan or Staten Island, that its officials work tirelessly to improve workplace benefits and conditions so that New York City will welcome it with open arms. Until then, we can only offer our back."
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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