The declaration by Wal-Mart's chief executive that the retailer will abandon efforts to open a store in Manhattan is prompting gloating by some City Council members.
Council Member Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said she started laughing when she learned that CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. told the New York Times that he did not think it was worth Wal-Mart's effort to open a store in New York City. The company later clarified that he was speaking about Manhattan.
"I knew that they would give up," Ms. Brewer said yesterday.
About two years ago Ms. Brewer said, she met with a group of consultants hired by Wal-Mart to discuss how the big box retailer could make inroads in New York. She spent the hour-long meeting laughing, she said.
"There's no way that Wal-Mart is coming to Manhattan or New York City," she said she told them at the time. "You have hit the bottom in terms of impression."
Council members have lobbed various criticisms at Wal-Mart over the years. Some said yesterday that the company does not pay its employees a living wage, that it discriminates against gays and lesbians, and that it encourages employees to enroll in taxpayer-funded programs to receive health coverage.
Wal-Mart has tried unsuccessfully to open stores in Queens and Staten Island.
Speaker Christine Quinn said Wal-Mart should spend less time worrying about the City Council's opinion and more time fixing the way it treats its employees.
"I think that we do want New Yorkers to be able to buy quality goods at low prices," she said. "I also know New Yorkers don't want to buy a good at a low price at the expense of their neighbor, who is the cashier or the stockperson."
A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Steven Malanga, said Wal-Mart treats its employees no differently than other large retailers do, but it has a bad reputation because unions have fought its expansion at every step.
Unlike other big box and chain stores, such as Home Depot, many Wal-Mart stores sell groceries and thus are competing with union-staffed supermarkets.
"What they care about is that Wal-Mart is a direct threat to one of the few unionized areas of high volume retailing in America," Mr. Malanga said.
Union members and other opponents say Wal-Mart stores hurt small neighborhood businesses.
Mr. Malanga said New Yorkers leave the city regularly to shop at big box stores in the suburbs, including Wal-Mart. The director of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart's Northeast region, Steven Restivo, said in an e-mailed statement that the company's most recent studies have shown New Yorkers spend more than $125 million a year at nearby Wal-Mart stores outside New York City.
The president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit business organization, Kathryn Wylde, said she thinks that everyone should be able to do business here.
"No business should feel that New York is closing its doors to them," she said.