for breaking news visit www.queenscourier.com august 1, 2013 • The queens CourieR 35 RIDGEWOOD GEARS UP FOR FIGHT Rumors that Walmart may come to area BY LIAM LA GUERRE email@example.com Local leaders pledged to stonewall Walmart amid rumors the retail giant is eyeing Ridgewood for its first New York City location. The company has tried to open a location in the city for years, but resistance from public officials and civic leaders has forced it to reconsider. Recent reports have hinted that the company is looking at vacant lots and sites in Ridgewood, and public officials and community leaders are not happy. “Walmart has a long, documented history of mistreating its workers and driving out local small businesses,” said Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, whose district includes Ridgewood. “Bringing in this store would negatively impact both the commercial and residential areas in Ridgewood.” Walmart’s opponents say the retail giant provides low-income, part-time jobs and forces small businesses to close because they cannot compete with the chain’s low prices. Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for minority communities, said her group is gearing up for a war against Walmart to prevent a store from opening anywhere in the city. The group is planning to rally and boycott as well as ask public officials to step up pressure against the mega store. It is not known whether Walmart is considering a full size, 182,000-squarefoot “supercenter” or a smaller Walmart Express measuring about 15,000-square-feet for the city. Lewis does not approve of either. “If they put a Walmart Express, it’s like one little bed bug,” she said. “Then in a few blocks there’ll be another bed bug and another and before you know it we’ll be infested ... We will bring the ruckus and we will bring the noise. We are not playing with these people and we are not afraid of them.” Nevertheless, a 2011 NY1-Marist poll showed that 64 percent of Queens residents would like a Walmart in their neighborhood, with 76 percent of those supporters saying they would be likely to shop there. Also last year, residents throughout the city spent more than $215 million at Walmart stores outside city limits. New York is also the top metro market for Walmart.com sales in the country, according to Steven Restivo, the company’s director of communications. “New Yorkers want us here and residents continue to go out of their way to shop our stores outside the city,” Restivo said. He added that Walmart creates jobs, citing Chicago, which has nine chains and employs nearly 2,000 people. Restivo confirmed that the retail giant is still looking for a place to set up shop in the five boroughs, but did not specify whether Ridgewood was on the list. This would not be the first time the company has tried to enter Queens. In 2005, the chain moved to include a store in Rego Park’s shopping center, but developer Vornado Realty Trust dropped the plans after opposition from the community, according to reports. Photo Courtesy of Walmart Rumors say Walmart is eyeing a move into Ridgewood, but leaders are not pleased. FILL ‘ER UP Court upholds strike down of soda ban BY CRIS TABELLE TUMOLA firstname.lastname@example.org New Yorkers are still free to drink any size soda they want. On Tuesday, July 30, an appeals court unanimously upheld a ruling striking down the city’s ban on large, sugary drinks. In March, a judge ruled the city’s sugary drink ban invalid less than 24 hours before it was set to take effect. The law would have forbidden businesses around the city from serving sugary drinks with more than 25 calories per eight ounces in sizes larger than 16 ounces. Those businesses would have had three months to comply before facing fines. “We are pleased that the lower court’s decision was upheld. With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on the people of New York City,” said Chris Gindlesperger, spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, one of the co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the ban. The March ruling had drawn an immediate vow from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to appeal it. He, weight loss groups and other supporters had pushed the controversial ban as a way to fight the city’s raising obesity rate. The mayor called Tuesday’s decision by the First Department of the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division a “temporary setback” and said he plans another appeal. “Since New York City’s ground-breaking limit on the portion size of sugary beverages was prevented from going into effect on March 12, more than 2,000 New Yorkers have died from the effects of diabetes,” he said. MASPETH WORKERS RALLY FOR PENSIONS BY LIAM LA GUERRE email@example.com Local sign makers swapped their tools of the trade for protest posters. Unionized workers at the North Shore Neon Sign Company’s Maspeth branch rallied in front of the business on July 26. They called for their boss to sign a contract that would increase their pensions. “It’s a shame, because we risk our lives every day,” said George Senior Jr., who has worked for the company for nearly a decade. “We’re just trying to get a fair deal.” The workers have been on strike since July 16. North Shore Neon has installed signs around New York for nearly half a century, including a number of placards in Times Square. It is one of 13 companies around the city and on Long Island that Local 137 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association is fighting against. The union wants a four-percent raise for its workers, with seven percent of the salary increase going towards pensions. However, the bosses do not want to allocate more money to pensions, union representatives said. Union workers can retire as early as age 55 and draw their pension until they die. “They should be entitled,” said Paul Collins, president of Local 137. “They are working with heavy steel. It takes a lot of hard work to do that. Some of them get hurt and they could never come back. The idea is that our members will have enough money so when they retire, they can live THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre a decent life.” Collins said he realized the companies could replace the striking workers, but said that would be difficult because of the various licenses and experience needed to work the metal with heavy machinery. North Shore Neon’s president Tom Brown made an appearance at the rally and voiced his disagreement with the strike. “A strike? I don’t know what the hell is going on here,” Brown said. “Yes, of course, they get a pension. I don’t know what they are talking about.” Multiple attempts including calls to cell phones and office numbers were made to reach a deal negotiator, but a response was not received as of press time. Collins said the groups are going to meet again soon, but a date has not been set.
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