April 19, 2005
The latest on Wal-Mart in NYC
After Wal-Mart's plans to open a store in Queens got shut down by caterwauling unions, residents, and city officials, the company has set its sights on the next logical market: Staten Island. Staten Island occupies cultural territory more closely aligned with New Jersey than with the other four boroughs of New York, so I can see how this might make sense. A developer is considering two locations in Staten Island: Richmond Valley and Mariners Harbor.
However, they're still encountering some resistance. The United Food and Commercial Workers are fighting the proposed store, and designed a billboard in protest. The billboard was to feature a giant fire-breathing Godzilla next to the Verrazano Bridge, with a caption reading "The Wal-Monster will destroy Staten Island businesses and devastate our quality of life."
Of course, that billboard is never going to see the light of day, because guess who owns the billboard the union has already contracted to rent? Clear Channel! Those champions of free expression. It's no big surprise that Clear Channel would be on the side of Wal-Mart in this case, but it's their rationale for not allowing the union's billboard that will make you crazy. They somehow found a way to co-opt 9/11 as an excuse to censor a billboard. Says a executive from Clear Channel Outdoor, "Are we perhaps oversensitive on this? Maybe. When it comes to images of violence in New York City after 9/11, we feel we have to be very careful."
So the union dropped some of the more violent language from the tagline, changing it to "The Wal-Monster will diminish Staten Island businesses and impede our quality of life." Clear Channel still rejected it.
With big-media friends like Clear Channel, Wal-Mart doesn't even have to get directly involved with those dirty protesters and unions. It's probably only a matter of time before they open their first NYC store.
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