Originally published on NYCityLens.com.
By Amy Chyan
Yellow smiley faces and employees’ royal-blue vests, immediately bring Wal-Mart to mind. But there are no smiley faces here in Harlem where some residents and small businesses are protesting the possibility that the national retailer will set up shop on the vacant lot at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue.
In the past few years, large brand-name stores like Staples, Marshalls and Old Navy, have opened on the corner across from the vacant lot, bringing tough competition to local businesses.
Concerns about the negative impact that another big-box store, like Wal-Mart, could have on Harlem businesses, especially during hard economic times, had community leaders, residents and even a state senator speaking out. On Thursday, Oct. 6, the group rallied with signs and raised its voice in front of the vacant lot.
“They feel threatened by the giants that will squash them,” New York State Sen. Bill Perkins said of the local stores currently open for business on the block. “We are in a David and Goliath situation.”
The strip along 125th Street in Harlem is no stranger to change. The New York City Economic Development Corporation’s website states that it is focused on transforming the Harlem main street, between Broadway and 2nd Avenue, into “a world-class arts, cultural, and entertainment destination and regional business district.”
In addition, 125th Street is named a New York City Business Improvement District, with one of the many goals to “promote 125th Street as a great location for local national retailers to do business.”.