Women and minorities sought for LAG project

By Madina Toure

Black and Latino leaders are putting pressure on the Port Authority to include more minority- and women-owned businesses and enterprises in the reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

In February, the PA announced the $3.6 billion redevelopment of the 51-year-old terminal would be put on hold temporarily. The selection committee, appointed by Gov. Cuomo, is currently reviewing submissions from three bidders.

Mobilizing Preachers & Communities, a Harlem-based nonprofit coalition of interdenominational churches, plans to block the project unless there is at least 35 percent minority and women participation.

The group, along with political and community leaders, envision participation at every level of development, including construction, architecture design, demolition, legal and public relations.

Because the project has been stalled, activists and leaders are starting to target the PA and government officials, said Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, the coalition’s president and CEO.

“Our job as activists is to say that if you’re not going to be fair with the M/WBE participation, we’re going to protest to do everything in our power to overthrow this project,” Green said.

The city awarded almost $690 million in prime and subcontracts to M/WBE firms in 2014 but gave less than 4 percent of contracts to them, according to a Black Institute report.

Supporters include state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan).

Green sent a letter dated May 1 requesting more participation to Daniel Tishman, chairman of a panel Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed to advise him and the PA on the top airport redesigns.

MPAC worked with other minority businesses to form the Transportation Consortium of New York, a team of M/WBE partners who can participate in the project.

Sanders, who sponsored legislation requiring annual reporting of entities entering into contracts with small business services, said people have the right to protest but that he would use his position to explore other options.

“If these public monies are going in and yet are not serving the best public good, then my job is to make sure that they are serving the public,” Sanders said.

Meeks said he is a strong advocate of the endeavor, noting his calls for M/WBE goals and requirements for renovations to JFK’s AirTrain.

In addition to protesting, he would pursue conversations with Cuomo and the PA in the hopes that they would get it done.

“We talk about the disparities — well, this is how we can help fix some of those disparities,” Meeks said.

Green said Cuomo has pledged a goal of 20-30 percent participation but said Mayor Bill de Blasio has not done a good job on the issue

The mayor’s office could not be reached for comment.

MPAC will be hosting a mass rally May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Calvary Baptist Church at 111-10 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica that will include a discussion about the LaGuardia project.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.