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Help the MWBEs

8/7/2014, 3:11 p.m.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, banks and political powers redlined communities of color, which had historically been diverse ethnic neighborhoods, into Black and Latino ghettoes. These seeds would lay the ground for Robert Moses’ devastating urban renewal, the riots of the 1960s and the crack epidemic of the 1980s.

Today, the redlines no longer surround neighborhoods. Instead, they circle the city’s megaprojects, such as Willet Point, Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards and Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion. It is a barrier built on a mixture of race and greed that says to professionals of color, “You need not apply.”

You cannot relegate 63 percent of the population to economic second-class citizenship without profound consequences for the future of our great city. Ask yourself why a Southern city like Atlanta, given its tumultuous history on race, became the magnet for Black talent in past 40 years and New York did not.

The city of Atlanta opened a new international terminal in 2012 that was built with more than 51 percent minority participation and minority firms teamed to own more than 51 percent of the concessions at Jackson/Hartsfield Airport. In September, New York and New Jersey’s Port Authority will select a team to build a $2.5 billion terminal at LaGuardia and, unless something changes, the entity that is selected will have no minority equity partners or any minority design/build companies on their team.

The solution starts first with the Black and Latino business communities. They have failed to demand their fair share the way minority business leaders in Miami, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and other major cities have. Just as important, Black and Latino political leadership has failed to demand that the state and city enforce existing MWBE legislation, even though it is some of the weakest in the country.

Finally, the mayor and governor have the ability to change this imbalance overnight. Simply order that, moving forward, no city or state contracts will be awarded without meeting the city and state MWBE goals.