By  on August 24, 2005

NEW YORK — Determined to get a toehold in one of the city's five boroughs, Wal-Mart is considering three sites in Brooklyn, as well as two in Staten Island, people familiar with the situation said.

The world's largest retailer is said to be focusing on Brooklyn, which it considers an underserved market of more than three million people.

Wal-Mart has been the target of political and organized labor opponents in New York who say it shortchanges employees on wages and benefits and hurts small businesses, among other things. They forced the Bentonville-Ark.-based giant to retreat this year from considering a site in the Rego Park section of Queens after its plans for a Supercenter were revealed. To counter the opposition, the company is taking out radio spots and advertising in community newspapers.

"Brooklyn welcomes businesses that want to be good neighbors," said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's borough president. "Wal-Mart would have to make serious changes in its business practices to gain my support. Ideally, Wal-Mart will consider unionized employment options, which would ensure the kind of living-wage, secure jobs with equal pay for women, benefits and health insurance that Brooklynites deserve."

The search in Brooklyn is said to center on Fulton Street, a major retail thoroughfare. Wal-Mart is negotiating with Joseph Sitt, founder and chief executive officer of Thor Equities, the owner of The Gallery at Fulton Street, which has 150,000 square feet of available space, people with knowledge of the situation said.

That would be sufficient to house a Supercenter. In fact, the company operates a successful 99,000-square-foot Supercenter in Tampa, Fla. Wal-Mart is said to be ready to tailor its assortment for the Brooklyn community.

Wal-Mart also has shown interest in the Coney Island and Red Hook sections of Brooklyn. It may need those as backups in case competition heats up on Fulton Street. National chains including J.C. Penney, Sears and Kohl's are also circling the area.

"I've heard that there are major retailers looking," said Mike Weiss, executive director of the Fulton Street Mall Association. "I've heard about Kohl's. There's an upbeat feeling about downtown Brooklyn. There's residential development so people will be living closer to downtown."

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