Asian, African-American and Hispanic business and religious leaders demonstrated outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office this afternoon to pressure the Democrat to diversify the leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The Jacob Javits Center board of directors and other state entities under the control of the executive branch.
They noted that the Port Authority has 10 white commissioners, that only two out of 22 MTA board members are people of color, and that all 17 members of the Jacob Javits Commission are Caucasian. The group acknowledged the nominations of Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, and Leecia Eve, Verizon’s Vice President of State Government Affairs for New York, to the Port Authority, but demanded the governor to nominate people of color who have a history of working on issues specific to minority and female business owners to the MTA, Jacob Javits and other boards.
“We have our Chinese brothers and sisters here, we have our Latino brothers and sisters here, we have our African-American brothers and sisters here, we have Native American brothers and sisters here,” said Rev. Dr. Carl Washington, senior pastor of New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Harlem. “We are bridging the gap. What we’re asking our governor to do is to start to bridge gaps. There are too many gaps in our state that need to be bridged and we want you, Mr. Governor, just to bridge the gap.”
Washington claimed that the governor only comes to minority communities when looking for votes, and then “you dismiss us after you are elected.”
“Thirty percent, 30 percent, but we only got two percent,” he continued. “We’re just asking for our other 28 percent. With the other 28 percent, we can move into the communities that are now—we’re being gentrified out of.”
Jeff Liu, president of Chinese Chamber of Commerce, told the Observer that the Asian community has made substantial contributions to the local economy.
“Asian Americans, especially the Chinese community, never get any contracts from the government,” Liu said.
The governor’s office told the Observer that the MTA’s utilization of so-called “minority and women-owned business enterprises” has increased by more than 60 percent during his time in office, resulting in more than $1 billion in contracts awarded to MWBEs over the past seven years—with more than $300 million in fiscal year 2015-2016 alone. The data does not include, the office said, the MTA’s additional spending with MWBEs under the Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which applies to projects such as the Second Avenue Subway.
They said Javits’ MWBE utilization more than tripled since 2011, resulting in about $13 million in MWBE utilization, and that from 2012 through 2016, the Port Authority awarded more than $2.2 billion in contracts to MWBEs despite not being subject to Article 15-A of the executive law, signed into law in July 1988 to approve the creation of the Office—now Division—of Minority and Women’s Business Development.
Since 2011, Cuomo appointed or nominated four minority group members and two non-minority women to the boards, they said.
“They are wrong on the numbers, wrong on the facts and their mind-numbingly dumb personal attacks would be insulting if they even had an ounce of accuracy,” Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, said in an emailed statement. “By any measure, New York under this administration is leading the way on diversity in contracting by raising MWBE participation from 9 percent to 25 percent of state contracts over the last seven years. Whatever this ‘coalition’s’ motives are, the truth is certainly not one of them.”
In 2014, Cuomo increased the state’s MWBE participation goal from 10 percent of all state contracts in 2011 to 30 percent. Though some MWBEs and advocates have claimed that the state is reaching its goals faster than the city, some have said that the city has been more transparent about the manner in which its goals are being carried out.