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By Adam Lisberg

April 13, 2011

The battle over Walmart moved to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development Wednesday as the agency considered selling a chunk of city land to developer Related Companies for the new mall the big box chain is eyeing for its first city store, reports Erin Durkin of the Daily News Brooklyn Bureau:

HPD officials conducting the hearing didn't tip their hand, but the sale of 25 acres to Related for $35 million for the Gateway II project in East New York is all but a done deal. The project already passed the City Council, and Mayor Bloomberg supports Walmart’s right to open in the city.

But opponents made a last-ditch effort to convince the city to block the sale, poking technical holes in the city’s appraisal of the property and charging Related only got the project through the Council by falsely claiming they wouldn’t bring in a Walmart.

“They said, ‘Don’t worry about that, we’re not bringing Walmart in,’” said Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York). “We want this application held up until Related agrees to honor its commitment to the City Council.”

Josh Kellerman of New York Jobs With Justice said the appraisal had technical flaws and demanded a new appraisal before the agency signs off on the deal. “To do any different would be to give away public land without knowing its true value,” he said.

But city officials said the appraisal was done right and argued the sale is crucial so the money can pay for infrastructure for a major affordable housing project also planned at the site.

Related has refused to talk about any negotiations with Walmart, but lawyer Jesse Masyr said HPD should go ahead with the sale because of the 2,200 affordable apartments, 1,700 jobs, and 16 acres of parks the full project will provide.

City business leaders echoed those arguments. “Gateway II will help revitalize this section of Brooklyn,” said Real Estate Board of New York senior vice president Michael Slattery. “The city desperately needs economic development activity that creates jobs.”

Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo said: “Given our longstanding relationships with customers, associates, suppliers, non-profits and other stakeholders across New York City, Walmart applauds any effort by the city to create jobs, spur economic development and improve access to healthy food.”

Opponents have been targeting their anti-Walmart efforts at Related lately - on Friday, a “flash mob” of demonstators showed up at the company’s Time Warner Center headquarters and sang, “Related wants to build a Walmart, we say, no, no, no!” You can watch it below.

To read the full original article, visit the New York Daily News.