Thursday, March 03, 2005

Parking Lot Memories Spared

Last week it was made official that negotiations with a realtor working with Wal-Mart to build a brand spanking nuevo store in my community had ended. I personally couldn’t be happier.

Yes I appreciate a bargain as much as the next person. In fact I probably appreciate a bargain more than the next person unless that next person is a single struggling mama of color like me. I admit that when I was in Maine, in the shadows of my undergraduate career, I could sometimes be found wandering the brightly lit aisles of Sam Walton’s empire. Hell it beat the crappy ass campus parties and it was open 24 hours and was way closer than L.L. Beane. I don’t remember ever actually buying anything at Wal-mart although it’s quite possible that I bought deodorant or some other necessity, the same way I buy such things at the local Target now. But back then Wal-Mart was more of a social experience and a grounding experience because sometimes I could meet and talk with migrant Mexican workers and their families. There were so few people of color and Latinos in my liberal arts college that those few moments of hearing and speaking Spanish were mini miracles that contributed to my survival.

But here in Rego Park, on the border with Elmhurst, I don’t need to use big box stores with their cheap products and low prices to socialize. That’s hwy there are bodegas and fruit stands. Besides the Rego Park area is already filled with huge chain stores and malls. The proposed Wal-mart would have been built just two blocks from my house. In fact I can see the parking lot if I look out one of the windows in my apartment. The parking lot sits between a small mall complex that includes a Sears, Marshall’s, Circuit City, Bed Bath & Beyond and Old Navy the newly rebuilt Queens Center Mall. Surrounding these malls are Target and numerous fast food joints to feed all the hungry shoppers. Directly across the street from the super complexes, on my side of the boulevard, at least two storefronts are empty, being unable to keep up with the rising rents.

What I found really interesting is that there wasn’t a huge local community outcry against the proposed Wal-Mart save from the politicians. Their talk was all focused on the effect the store would have on whatever was left of the local smaller merchants and the traffic. There was hushed talk about the effect that such stores have on wages. There was no talk about the overall unfair and criminal labor practices of Wal-Mart. Compare this to the outrage and protests surround the opening of the local strip club Wiggles. And no I’m not just pointing out the disparity because I used to be a stripper (not at Wiggles).

I have a feeling Wal-Mart will try again. The empty parking lot has been a proposed site for a multiplex movie theater. There have been reports of rapes over the years happening in the isolated location. There has never been a public suggestion about building a school on the site, part of a very overcrowded school district. No cultural center has been suggested either. I’ll be long gone form here by the time anything is built on the spot. For now I’m glad it will stay in my mind as a place where every spring a carnival comes and now where workers are potentially locked in overnight.

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