Imlay is a Go... and the rise of Social Democracy in Red Hook
So Imlay is a go. I've said before that I think the Imlay St. project is probably a good idea, so I'm glad to see this move forward. It will be welcome news for lots of the small shop owners in the area. It will also bring in some new residents that will probably change the local political consituency in a way that will get the city's attention on occasion - i.e. we'll be getting rich neighbors with connections. Yes, its a problem that money plays such a role in politics (in NY and nationally) and when the revolution comes they'll be the first ones against the wall, but until then I'd like some stop signs, I'd like to see the area around P.S. 15 made into a School Zone, and I'd like to see some repaving going on here and there.
There was also a good interview with Greg O'Connell on the Center for an Urban Future's website. O'Connell comes across well. I don't know him, but he does have a good reputation, and he sounds reasonable in the interview. I know he was involved in funding the lawsuit against the Imlay Street project. I'm curious to see if he and Batkin put aside their differences now and start to cooperate, or if they jack up the competition. I'm waiting for the announcement that the ground floor of 160 Imlay will be a D'Agastino's or a Gourmet Garage.
In the course of O'Connell's interview he talks about the Ikea project and highlights the differences between Ikea and some of the other big box stores. This is an important point. There is a tendency to group large retailers together and in particular to put them all in the Wal-Mart category. This is a real mistake. On the face of it they may seem alike, but they really do run on very different business models, particularly in their labor relations. Within their stores Ikea has a very good reputation as an employer - lowest turnover in the industry, best employee benefits, higher than average wages. See this article about Ikea's St. Paul, Minnesota operation. Wal-Mart has the opposite reputation - highest turnover, benefits so low as to impose huge costs on public welfare programs, and wages that depress local job markets. The Christian Science Monitor currently has a piece on Wal-Mart, but there's a ton of stuff critical of the Wal-Mart model out there. Considering where the two companies come from - Swedish social democracy vs. the traditionally hostile to organized labor US South - this is hardly suprising. Where Ikea has had more problems is in the overseas suppliers. To their credit, they have cooperated with organized labor to address some of their supplier problems.
Painting all large retailers as the same is potentially a very big mistake. Ikea may well be a better deal than it seemed. Who knows, they may even end up as a sort of trojan horse for social democracy in the USA? How great would that be?!?
Workers of the World Unite.