Jamaica NAACP slams Aqueduct over hirings

By Howard Koplowitz

The Jamaica Branch of the NAACP has threatened to boycott the Aqueduct racino project and “shut the place down” over what it perceived as a lack of respect by the company building the project, which it said has so far failed to employ minority contractors and black residents from southeast Queens.

Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica NAACP, demanded that Genting New York hire 25 percent of its work force from southeast Queens while other members called for 50 percent during a meeting at the branch’s headquarters last week in Jamaica.

“It’s the work force in this neighborhood who never get the work,” said Herlema Owens of the Association of Women Construction Workers of America, who complained that minority contractors were not being hired by Genting.

Gadsden said he was disappointed that Genting had not given the NAACP a breakdown of how many southeast Queens residents it has hired, saying he asked Genting President Mike Speller for the information back on Nov. 9.

“This man does not respect this community. They refuse to negotiate with us. They haven’t done nothing,” Gadsden said. “I’ve had enough meetings. All I got left is the streets.”

“Why should we hassle over jobs if this company is not going to respect us?” Gadsden said. “We have to say something or we will hit the streets.”

But Patrick Jenkins, a Genting consultant and southeast Queens resident, said the company is doing its best to hire from the community.

Jenkins said the company has a goal of hiring 54 percent of its contractors from minority- or women-owned businesses with a 33 percent goal of employing minority- and women-owned businesses as subcontractors.

Of the construction employees currently working on the job, Jenkins said 13 percent are from Community Boards 9, 10, 12 and 13, which cover southern and southeast Queens, and that 36 percent of contractors are minority- or women-owned businesses.

Another Aqueduct consultant said there were no provisions in Genting’s labor agreement that requires the company to employ a certain percentage of workers from southeast Queens.

But the consultant said Genting plans to hire 25 percent of its work force from the community and he is “raising hell to make sure it happens.”

Genting plans to employ 800 to 900 people in permanent positions, including 50 managerial-level jobs.

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) said she expected more jobs to be created by the racino project and said the total number means most southeast Queens will be largely left out.

“There won’t be 10 people in this room who will get a damn job,” she said during the meeting.

Huntley advised the crowd to stay away from Aqueduct in protest and to go to Atlantic City instead.

“Don’t go spend your money,” she said.

Former City Councilman Archie Spigner agreed.

“They’re going to take money out of your pockets,” he said. “They’re not here to do missionary work.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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