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By Daniel Massey

April 13, 2011

Walmart opponents took their campaign to a mayoral hearing Wednesday, trying to delay the transfer of a city-owned parcel in Brooklyn to The Related Cos.

The retailer has had talks with Related about building its first store in the city on the site in East New York, Brooklyn. The property already has City Council approval for retail use. News that the real estate giant would welcome Walmart has opened it up to protests from the retailer's opponents, who want Related to lease to a unionized company like ShopRite.

Walmart foes have persuaded some council members to ask Related not to deal with Walmart and, last Friday, descended upon Related's Time Warner Center headquarters with drums, trumpets and dozens of protesters singing, “Related wants to build a Walmart. We say no, no, no.”

On Wednesday, opponents argued that the $30.5 million appraisal of the 406,000 square-foot parcel was low because it only accounted for the planned retail mall and ignored that the new zoning allows for 3.8 million square feet of commercial development. Related has agreed to pay $35 million.

“Could the developer conceivably build 3.8 million square feet of retail and thereby exponentially increase the value of the land?” asked Josh Kellermann, a policy associate at NY Jobs with Justice and Urban Agenda, part of the Walmart Free NYC coalition, a labor-backed coalition of unions, community groups and small business owners. “We don't know, because the appraiser failed to address this fundamental component of any adequate appraisal.”

Mr. Kellermann called for a delay to any land transfer until a more complete appraisal can be completed.

A Related spokeswoman referred calls to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The agency's spokesman said that despite the underlying zoning, Related is restricted from building in excess of 620,000 square feet by the urban renewal plan governing the site as well as by its contract with the city. The retail mall will be 620,000 square feet, he said, on what is now city- and state-owned land.

“The appraisal was prepared based on what the developer is permitted to build under this agreement,” the housing department spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Walmart Free NYC maintained that the appraisal was incomplete and should have included the limits on building outlined by the city housing department.

The retail mall is just a piece of the East New York project, which will also include more than 2,200 units of affordable housing. Construction has begun on more than 550 of those units.

To read the full original article, visit Crain's New York Business.