Walmart is suddenly making sweet music with Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz — once a staunch critic of the megastore’s plans to break ground in the borough.
The retail giant — angling to open in a planned East New York development — has now cozied up to Markowitz by becoming a corporate sponsor of his summer Martin Luther King Jr. concert series.
The concerts kick off tonight with a performance by Maze in Brooklyn’s Wingate Field. Queen Latifah and Shaggy are featured acts later this week.
It’ll cost Walmart about $150,000 to be associated with the music festival — and it could be worth every last dollar.
Markowitz, who has a knack for grabbing headlines, has recently softened his once-staunch criticism of the store.
This is the first time Walmart has sponsored one of Markowitz’s summer concerts, company aides confirmed.
“Walmart has been very generous in supporting events and initiatives throughout the city,” Markowitz said.
“I am not philosophically opposed to Walmart but I have been consistent in demanding they show a commitment to Brooklyn by paying a fair wage, offering health benefits [and] using union workers in any construction projects in New York City,” he said.
That’s a dramatic shift from 2009, when a Markowitz aide wrote a scathing critique of Walmart in official documents.
“It is well known that stores such as Walmart have questionable labor practices and adversely affect neighborhood retailers,” the aide wrote.
“Given that Costco is operating on two levels in Sunset Park, additional legal assurances are needed so that Related Companies or any successor will not lease to the likes of Costco, Walmart or Sam’s Club,” the aide wrote.
Some members of the City Council were furious over the alliance.
“Dr. King fought and died for fair wages and taking this money would be a dishonor to his legacy,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn).
Walmart’s inclusion in the East New York’s Gateway Estates development does not need Markowitz’s approval.
But given the intense controversy surrounding the corporation’s employment practices, an endorsement from the popular borough president can’t hurt.
Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company “has contributed close to $13 million across the five boroughs since 2007, so this contribution is consistent with what we’ve contributed over the past several years and will continue for years moving forward.” [NY Post]