By Madina Toure
(Editors note: Updating Sanders’ meeting with Skanska)
Black and Latino leaders are in discussions with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Port Authority to ensure sufficient representation of minorities and women in the LaGuardia terminal renovation project as more Queens elected officials have joined the movement for diversity in the project.
At the end of May, the PA announced that LaGuardia Gateway Partners will lead the $4 billion renovation of the airport’s Terminal B. The joint venture consists of Canada’s Vantage Airport Group, France’s Meridiam for development and equity investment, and Swedish construction conglomerate Skanska.
A PA spokesman said the lease with LGP has not been signed yet and that no third-party contractors or subcontractors have been or will be signed until that occurs.
In a letter dated Sept. 22 to Cuomo and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, president and CEO of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities, along with other pastors, requested 30 percent representation at the prime level of the project, not just at the subcontractor level.
The letter states that LGP equity partners are investing $200 million and expressed concerns about Skanska but inaccurately claimed that the company had pleaded guilty in federal court to M/WBE—minority- and women-owned businesses and enterprises—fraud and paid a $21 million fine.
In 2011, Skanska entered into an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan resolving an investigation into its use of disadvantaged, minority- and women-owned businesses, according to Elizabeth Miller, Skanska’s communications director for the Northeast region.
Skanska paid $19.6 million, which was split equally between the United States and the MTA, Miller said.
The company has not admitted to any wrongdoing and has continued to cooperate with the government’s investigation, she said.
Green said MPAC is confident about Cuomo’s 30 percent minority and women goal after a meeting with representatives from Cuomo’s office Oct. 6.
He said the problem lies with the PA and Skanska, which is not being forthcoming with information.
“If there are going to be potential participants in this project, they need to have access to all of the discussions at the early stages of this project,” Green said.
Alphonso David, Cuomo’s counsel, said M/WBEs will have opportunities to participate in the project beginning in the first quarter of 2016.
The PA spokesman said no M/WBEs have applied to the request for proposal process and that LGP and the PA have undertaken several initiatives to recruit M/WBEs.
State Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) said the project should be a “game changer” for the M/WBE community.
He is reaching out to LGP and has been in “constant dialogue” with the Port Authority.
Sanders met recently with Skanska leadership, including Skanska USA CEO Richard Cavallaro, Sanders and Miller both said.
“My conversation is how do we get jobs moving in New York and right now I am focused on the LaGuardia project,” Sanders said.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said he is planning to meet with Skanska soon and has been working with community leaders and elected officials.
“Everybody’s going to make sure that we’re all on the same page and get this thing done,” Meeks said.
The letter also proposes that Transportation Consortium of New York be added to the project as 30 percent M/WBE prime partners.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said he is focused on meeting the 30 percent goal, noting that “LaGuardia’s backyard” is full of minorities.
“We as minority legislators are aware of some of these games that are played and we don’t want to see that happen at LaGuardia,” Peralta said.
Alex Florez, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), said he believes the airport’s redevelopment is a unique opportunity to create jobs for the area.
“He has met with members of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities and has expressed his support for adequate minority business participation to ensure this transformative project benefits all of New York City’s diverse communities,” Florez said in a statement.
LGP and Skanska said they could not comment because they are still involved in an active procurement process with the PA.
“The Port Authority is committed to meeting increased goals for participation by M/WBE businesses in its capital construction projects, including the LaGuardia Airport redevelopment,” the PA said in a statement.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour