By Madina Toure
After the Port Authority’s announcement at the end of May that LaGuardia Gateway Partners will lead the $3.6 billion renovation of LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B, black and Latino leaders are repeating calls for more minority- and women-owned businesses to be given contracts.
The PA said the company will be responsible for designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the new facility, which will include premier retail and dining space, a hotel and a conference-and-business center.
LaGuardia Gateway Partners consists of Vantage Airport Group, Skanska and Meridiam for development and equity investment. Skanska is part of the construction joint venture.
In May, Mobilizing Preachers & Communities, a Harlem-based nonprofit coalition of interdenominational churches, said it would block the project unless there is at least 35 percent minority and women participation.
MPAC worked with other minority businesses to form the Transportation Consortium of New York, a team of partners who can participate in the project.
“Our plan is to continue to galvanize our consortium to make sure that if the opportunity presents itself, we’re ready to provide quality work — that’s what we’re focusing on,” Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, the coalition’s president and CEO, said.
He credited state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) with taking a lead on the effort. Sanders introduced a bill in June that would increase opportunities for minorities and women.
In a letter dated June 16 to M. Thierry Déau, Meridiam’s founding partner and CEO, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) noted that one of the primary access points to the airport is through his district in Harlem and urged Déau to add at least 30 percent minority and women participation.
On its website, LaGuardia Gateway Partners says its team has a track record of using both as well as disadvantaged business enterprise certified firms in its contracts and plans to do so for the terminal project and associated projects.
LaGuardia Gateway Partners, Meridiam and Skanska all said they could not comment given that the project is an open procurement.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said he has been in contact with Skanska about setting up a meeting that would include other partners and elected officials in the next two weeks.
In March 2011, Skanska agreed to pay fines to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the MTA to avoid prosecution for falsely claiming work was done by disadvantaged, minority or woman-owned business enterprises when Skanksa had done the work itself.
Meeks said he would not comment on the matter as he is currently in negotiations with the company.
He said the challenge is breaking up a contract into smaller chunks to increase minority and women contractors’ eligibility.
“I know they’ve done work on airports,” Meeks said. “They’ve done work on Kennedy previously and we were able to work with them and got many M/WBEs on the job. Always my strategy first is to deal with the ones who you know and who might have been successful and go from there.”
The Port Authority said it conducts its own certification process through its Office of Business Diversity and Civil Rights, but it would help companies designated by others in compliance with its process.
“LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the preferred developer, is in the early stages of detailed negotiations with the Port Authority, airlines and other stakeholders to finalize its proposal for a new, expanded Terminal B and entry portal, while finalizing the deal’s financial terms,” PA said in a statement.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour