City fails to hire minority contractors: Liu

City fails to hire minority contractors: Liu
Leroy Gadsden, head of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP, leads a protest outside Aqueduct Race Track to call on Genting to hire southeast Queens residents and use minority-owned contractors. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

Using the services of minority- and women-owned businesses accounts for only 2.3 percent of the spending by city agencies, according to a database rolled out last week by city Comptroller John Liu.

The database, called “M/WBE Report Card NYC,” tracks all 143 city agencies and breaks down how much each department spends on Asian-, black- and Hispanic-owned businesses along with firms owned by white women.

“There is no shortage of talent in New York City,” Liu said in a statement. “The challenge is to make sure everyone has an equal chance to get a foot in the door. Right now the door is being slammed in the face of New York’s diverse and ambitious population. When government draws from a bigger talent pool, it means increased competition for city dollars and greater savings for city taxpayers.”

The city has so far spent $16.6 billion on non-M/WBE contractors and $397.5 million on minority- and women-owned businesses — or 2.3 percent of the total spent by the city.

Liu said that before he established M/WBE Report Card NYC, the city had no accurate system to track its spending on minority- and women-owned businesses.

“Despite the [Bloomberg] administration’s public posturing, little has been done to level the playing field when it comes time for the city to assign necessary contracts,” he said. “The purpose of the M/WBE Report Card is not to point fingers. It’s our hope that everyone — my office included — finds this report card motivation to do more to increase opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

The city School Construction Authority spent the most of any city agency on black-owned businesses at $6.73 million out of $2.43 billion in total spending.

The city Department of Emergency Management spent the least on black-owned businesses at $280 out of $20 million in total spending.

The SCA was also tops in the amount it spent on Asian-owned businesses at $65.78 million and women-owned businesses at $33.48 million.

The most any agency spent on Hispanic-owned businesses was the city Department of Parks, which spent $22.83 million.

When Liu represented Flushing on the City Council, he supported Local Law 129, which was enacted in 2005 to make it easier for minority- and women-owned businesses to compete for city contracts.

City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), the sponsor of the bill, said it had been an “abject failure” and suggested he was disappointed in what the database revealed.

“It is a sad thing when minority businesses have a better chance to make it in Selma, Ala., with its sordid racial history, than in ‘liberal’ New York City,” Sanders said in a statement. “Comptroller John Liu’s efforts to correct this is a noble effort during these tough times, and he is to be commended.”

The Jamaica branch of the NAACP made the hiring of minority-owned firms an issue during the bidding process for the video lottery terminal contract at Aqueduct Race Track and held a second protest at the site the day before work on the redevelopment was to start.

But Genting New York, the winning bidder for the Aqueduct project, said it planned to spend 60 percent of its contracts on minority- and women-owned businesses.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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