Two weeks ago, several dozen minority and women-owned businesses (MWBE) met in Harlem for a summit on how to close the inequity gap in the real estate industry.

Black and Brown economic leaders hoped to come up with the right path down the proverbial yellow brick road but hoped that others would travel with them on the journey. Something that Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) NYC President Denise Scott hopes will come soon.

“Closing the racial wealth gap is an important part of LISC’s mission,” stated Scott. “Real estate ownership and development is frequently the foundation of generational wealth in this country, yet many Black and Brown individuals have been deprived of the opportunities it offers for far too long. We heard that firsthand today, but we also felt the energy of change in our midst, too.”

The event, hosted by LISC NYC, looked to “put substance behind rhetoric: proposing solutions, public policy: best way to address the issue to help minority developers thrive.

“A full and equitable economic recovery from the pandemic will require that MWBE developers and business owners have a seat at the table and can participate in, benefit from, and support New York’s economy of the future,” stated Andrew Kimball, president & CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Conversations like those held today are critical to sparking progress toward achieving that goal. NYCEDC looks forward to continuing to work with MBE developers to grow MWBE participation in the city’s economic recovery.”

Those in attendance, including those who led the panel discussions, pointed out the maze Black and Black developers and entrepreneurs have to take for the crumbs left at the end of tunnel while the majority run away with the rest. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The group also noted the success of the Affirmation Tower proposal, an MWBE-led project that Architectural Digest called one of the most exciting real estate projects in the five boroughs, and hoped that others could learn through their journey. They want those in attendance to learn how to navigate the process and possibly close the inequity gap in real estate.

With panelists, such as Cheryl McKissack Daniel, the president and CEO of McKissack & McKissack (the oldest MWBE professional design and construction firm in the country); Exact Capital Managing Partner Craig Livingston who helped lead the Affirmation Tower project; and Beatrice Sibblies, managing partner and founder of Harlem-based BOS Development, a real estate development and brokerage firm, if one were to learn the ins and outs of the current real estate industry, these are the people who would know.

“There are far too few MBE-led development projects in New York City. We’re looking to change that,” stated Livingston. “Diverse real estate development firms play a critical role in growing communities, creating equity, and facilitating meaningful economic opportunities for Black and Brown owned companies across the five boroughs. Encouraging and supporting developers of color will pave the way for a future where those firms that have been systematically excluded can now make their mark on the industry.”

Robin Zeigler, founder and CEO of MURAL Real Estate Partners, LLC, stated the same.

“Representation of minorities, specifically Black leaders, has severely lacked in the real estate and development industry,” said Zeigler. “Thanks to organizations like LISC NYC and their commitment to ensuring more opportunities for MBE developers, it is a strong step in the right direction towards inclusivity.”

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