MIDTOWN — Some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aides told an influential group of black ministers Tuesday that the state would push for minority-owned firms to receive 30 percent of the highest-level contracts to rebuild LaGuardia Airport's central terminal.
The 90-minute meeting at Cuomo's Midtown offices came a day after DNAinfo New York reported that the group, Mobilizing Preachers and Communities, threatened to pull its support for the governor if minority-owned firms were not named as equity partners in the $4 billion plan to rebuild the airport.
Cuomo's Executive Deputy Secretary Joe Percoco, Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, special adviser Rodney Capel, Director of Downstate Intergovernmental Affairs Aimee J. Vargas, and Charlie King, a longtime Cuomo adviser who is New York chair of Mercury Public Affairs, were at the meeting, according to multiple people in attendance.
"Let's just say everybody was there," said the Rev. Johnnie Green, pastor of the 1,500 member Mount Neboh Church in Harlem. "We left feeling confident that there will be a 30 percent minority contractor at the prime level."
Losing the support of the 250 ministers from "Buffalo to Brooklyn," said Green, would be potentially devastating to Cuomo, a Democrat, should he seek a third term as governor.
Cuomo has pledged that the state would meet a goal of having 30 percent minority contractors on state contracts. But MPAC said that too often, the minority firms chosen are smaller subcontractors.
MPAC wants the 30 percent minority hiring goal to be met at the equity or ownership level alongside LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a consortium contracted by the Port Authority in May to develop the project.
"We can talk about the 'Tale of Two Cities' but this is doing something about it," said the Rev. Patrick Young of the 600-member First Baptist Church of East Elmhurst. "What we are asking for has already happened in cities like Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., so now we want to make history in New York City."
Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said she had no knowledge of the meeting but released a statement from David saying that the governor "is committed to ensuring that the LaGuardia project meets the state’s 30 percent MWBE goal, which is the highest in the country," starting in the first quarter of 2016.
The MWBE acronym refers to minority- and women-owned businesses.
"The administration is actively engaged with the Port Authority to make sure that MWBE firms are informed about all contracting opportunities and will be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities when the project officially launches," David added.
LaGuardia Gateway Partners is still negotiating a 35-year lease with the Port Authority.
MPAC is supporting a group called Transportation Consortium of New York to be a 30 percent minority-owned equity partner. The group includes top minority-owned architecture, design, finance and management firms from around the country and New York City.
While the group knew it couldn't compete with the industry giants that came together to form the winning consortium — Vantage Airport Group, Skanska, Parsons Brinckerhoff and architecture firm HOK — they believe they have more than enough experience to be a partner.
A contract of this size will help the group build the capacity to be the lead bidder on significant projects such as the LaGuardia rebuild in the future, they say.
The ministers say minority-owned firms are more likely to hire minority workers and help to alleviate the disproportionate unemployment levels among blacks and Latinos which is more than double that of whites in New York City.
"This is economic and educational justice for our community. All the ills of violence come from a lack of these two things," Young said.
Green said no promises were made about hiring the Transportation Consortium of New York but he wants there to be a level playing field.
"This is about minority participation," said Green. "We just don't want business as usual."