NEW YORK — Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation have made a $25 million gift to help expand summer services for kids in several large U.S. cities, including New York where the retailer is trying to open stores.
The gift has been earmarked for three main initiatives: $7.8 million to fund the YMCA and National Recreation and Park Association’s efforts to provide kids with healthy meals; a $11.5 million grant to the National Summer Learning Association for summer learning programs and $5 million in grants for youth employment opportunities. A spokeswoman for the Wal-Mart Foundation said New York will receive the lion’s share of funds earmarked for youth summer jobs, $3 million. The remaining $2 million will be split between Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington. New York will also receive $812,500 for its learning initiative and about $50,000 to feed kids this summer.
Same-store sales at Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores have fallen for five consecutive quarters and the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has made no secret of its desire to break into urban markets such as New York and Chicago, where it received approval to open its second and third stores.
Wal-Mart has been criticized for stepping up its lobbying and charitable donations in New York while it reportedly aims to open a SuperCenter in East New York at the Gateway II, which is being developed by the Related Cos. Representatives of Related were expected last week at Community Board 5’s meeting to discuss the shopping center and questions about Wal-Mart. A CB5 staffer said that Related canceled, but didn’t know the reason.
According to lobbying data from the New York State Commission on Public Integrity, Wal-Mart spent $1.85 million on lobbying and political-style advertisements during the first four months of 2011. By comparison, the company, from 2007 through 2010, spent $335,385.
Meanwhile, some of the city’s community boards are looking for ways to keep Wal-Mart from entering their neighborhoods. CB3 in the East Village, for example, is talking about drafting an iron-clad resolution. Of particular concern is the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area south of Delancey Street. The plan includes sites around Essex Street the Essex Street Market. In addition, there are plans for a large swath of land near the Williamsburg Bridge that has remained undeveloped for more than 40 years.
“On June 6, [Community Board 3] continued discussions of Wal-Mart and New York City,” said Susan Stetzer, district manager of the board, which includes the SPURA site. “We were trying to get somebody from Wal-Mart to come and talk to the committee. SPURA would be of concern. It’s an area that Wal-Mart could potentially be interested in.”
Stetzer said that all resolutions will go to the full board on June 28, but that the board isn’t ready to take a position. The next time the Wal-Mart issue will be taken up is in September. “Buildings go up and buildings come down here,” she said, referring to the East Village. “There’s a lot of development going on. This is something we’re developing and discussing.