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A Wal-Mart Battle Grows In Brooklyn

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With speculation mounting that Wal-Mart may try and open a store in Brooklyn, opponents of the big box retailer are already fighting back. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Ask a shopper, and they'll tell you Wal-Mart has got some of the best values around.

"They have very good deals. Very, very good deals. And they sell everything," said one Brooklyn resident.

But critics of the retailer see things differently.

"People may think you're getting low prices, but you are getting lower wages -- slave wages," said City Councilman Charles Barron. "Wal-Marts have been notorious for oppressing their workers. Not allowing for unionization."

Wal-Mart is reportedly eyeing a spot in East New York, pictured below, for its first New York City store. The land is empty now, but it's set to become a shopping center -- an expansion of the Gateway Center just next door.

In the face of fierce opposition, the big box giant has abandoned past plans to open stores in the city. But it got a boost Tuesday from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"I've always thought, the more competition the better," said the mayor.

The store's possible arrival in New York City could spark a fight between the mayor and his frequent ally, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has long opposed the chain.

"The mayor and I have a slightly different opinion on Wal-Mart," Quinn said.

Meanwhile, local labor unions are also raising their voice, saying they plan to join the fight to block its arrival.

"We will be protesting, hoping that there will be no Wal-Mart in Brooklyn," said Pat Purcell of UFCW Local 1500.

Of course, all this talk of Wal-Mart may turn out to be nothing. Wal-Mart's director of community affairs, Steven Restivo, says the company does not have a project to announce in New York City at this time.

In a statement, though, he added: "We know that New Yorkers want to shop and work at Wal-Mart and as a result, we continue to evaluate potential opportunities here."

Restivo noted that the average wage for full-time associates in New York State is $12.03 an hour.

If Wal-Mart does open a store in Brooklyn, there's little doubt among shoppers that it would be popular. In fact, as Wal-Mart points out, New York City residents already spend $125 million a year at Wal-Marts outside the five boroughs.

"I think that it would be a big opportunity for workers like myself to get in and earn money by working at Wal-Mart," said one Brooklyn resident.

For now, though, the only way for New Yorkers to shop and work at the store, is to leave the city.

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