Lower East Side leaders recently met at a City Council hearing to discuss the development of the Seward Park Extension Renewal Area, lovingly known as SPURA. Together, the local supporters gave a resounding opposition to allowing big box retailers into the area. The advocates hoped to influence Councilwoman Margaret Chin to prohibit retailers like Walmart to open on the Lower East Side, which they feel would change the predominantly mom-and-pop shop neighborhood for the worse.
Groups like Walmart Free NYC and LES Small Business owners have joined forces, creating a super group called LES United Against Walmart. The newly formed group is actively promoting the community’s voice against big box retailers for the SPURA project. Local residents and supporters want a neighborhood that encourages local businesses and business owners to flourish, a prospect that could be in jeopardy if stores like Walmart were allowed to open up in the area.
Walmart, which has been known to single-handedly shut out small businesses across the country, is only one of many big box retailers that the group hopes to keep out of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. To assure this will happen, the LES United Against Walmart group is asking the city to require a 30,00 square foot limitation on all new retail developments. They are also advocating wage standards for all workers, since Walmart has also been accused of paying employees at less than the federal poverty level.
Finally, the group wants protection for Essex Street Market vendors, giving them comparable rents to their current locations. These measures would keep the independent spirit of the Lower East Side alive, while still allowing for redevelopment to enhance the neighborhood.