By Ivan Pereira
The Aqueduct racino has been touted as an economic boon to the borough, but southeast Queens activists contend their residents should be the ones to reap the benefits of the multimillion-dollar project.
About 30 people gathered outside the former race track in Howard Beach Saturday morning to call on developer Resorts World New Yorkï»¿ to look at local companies and prospective employees as it goes through its hiring process for construction and permanent positions at the site.
Leroy Gadsen, president of the Jamaica NAACP branch, which organized the protest, said he was concerned about the developer’s decisions after they reportedly ï»¿hired a New Jersey-based company for some of the $30 million construction.
“We don’t live in New Jersey, we don’t work in New Jersey. We want jobs here,” he said.
The racino project will bring in 1,200 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs, according to the New York Racing Association. The new gambling site will have 1,600 video lottery terminals and is expected to generate $300 million in revenue for New York state, NYRA said.
The contractor for Aqueduct, Tutor Perini, has said that it will award at least 25 percent of its contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses, but has not specified if it will only search for companies in the borough.
Gadsen said Genting, Resorts World New York’s parent company, and its contractor should be mandated to look at southeast Queens for the job opportunities. The neighborhood has become ground zero for the foreclosure crisis and thousands of residents are desperately looking for good-paying jobs, according to the activist.
“Our message is simple,” he said. “We know we have unemployed people … we demand that you give us what is rightfully ours,” he said.
A spokesman for Genting said it has listened to the community’s concerns and would be cooperating.
“Resorts World New York will fully honor the commitment we made to hiring from the community for both construction and permanent jobs,” spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a statement.
Former City Councilman Archie Spigner agreed because the project has been stalled for years and residents have been eagerly awaiting its opening.
“We’re not going to let this opportunity pass,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.