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Aqueduct seeks minority contractors

During Aqueduct's ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, (l.-r., front row) Genting Chairman K.T. Lim, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York Gary LaBarbera, Tutor Perini's Brad Statler and Gov. David Paterson sign a labor agreement for the racino project. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Connor Adams Sheets

Between 300 and 400 contractors attended an event at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park Friday morning to explain to area minority- and women-owned businesses what they need to do if they want to land contracts to help build a racino project at the track.

The event was aimed at recruiting minority-owned contracting businesses, which the racino’s developer, Resorts World New York, and its chosen construction company, Tutor Perini, have pledged will do 25 percent of the work on the multibillion-dollar project.

It featured a presentation by Tutor Perini and Resorts World New York representatives, who explained the steps subcontractors must take in order to be considered for the contracts, which range in size from $30,000 to $30 million each and are in 60 categories as varied as selective demolition, spray fireproofing and signage.

Attendees received packets explaining the process for being considered and applying, and a question-and-answer session was held for clarification.

The event was a resounding success, according to Amy Palmer, a legal administrative assistant for Tudor Perini.

“The minority contractors started showing up at 8 this morning and there were 50 contractors waiting to get in when we got here,” she said.

Geetha Krish, a financial consultant for the Small Business Development Center, a program at York College that helps its small-business-owning clients with financial issues such as procurement and contracts, said her clients are excited about the planned racino and the work and jobs it will bring to Queens.

“I came to get the information from Tutor Perini to pass to our contractors who are registered with us. We are going to help them apply for these jobs,” she explained. “If they get the jobs, each contractor will employ 10, 12, maybe more people in the community.”

John Hill, the Tudor Perini executive for the project, pledged his company’s commitment to a diverse workforce and said he felt that the event was a good chance for contractors to learn how to take advantage of the opportunities the racino will bring to the community.

“We provided all the information needed to get these subcontractors working on the project,” he said. “The participation goal for minority- and women-owned businesses is 25 percent and Tutor Perini is committed to meeting or exceeding that amount.”

Builders expect to have 1,600 VLTs installed within the next six months. The racino project will bring 1,200 construction jobs to the area and 800 permanent jobs and is expected to produce more than $300 million in annual state revenue, according to the New York Racing Association.

Many attendees were pleased to see the commitment to diversity made by the companies that will be heading one of the largest investments in southern Queens in recent years.

But Everly Brown, a local activist who ran as a Conservative Party candidate and lost earlier this month in an electoral bid against state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), said he is happy to see this first step but the companies must do more to prove themselves in the community. He also said he wants to ensure that 25 percent of people who are hired for non-contractor positions are minorities from surrounding areas such as Hollis, Jamaica and Richmond Hill.

The Jamaica NAACP agreed and had a protest against the developer Saturday, demanding the jobs associated with the racino go to southeast Queens residents.

“My concern here is they say they’re employing 25 percent minority, but my concern is from where? I say it should be from 114– ZIP codes. And for people who are qualified to put in a bid, aren’t licensed contractors, will they be hired?” he said. “I want to make sure the people are hired from this community rather than brought in from elsewhere …. Money is coming to the community and the people who live here should know about it and get involved.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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