As a host of businesses in southeast Queens were forced to shut down in the spring of 2020 due to the dire economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, Principal and Founder of RCGA Architects, Robert Gaskin credits the MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) initiative through New York State’s LaGuardia Redevelopment project for supplying critical support.
On Tuesday, November 30, Gaskin attended a Port Authority briefing where Governor Kathy Hochul announced a record-setting $2 billion in contracts have been awarded thus far to Minority-and Women-Owned Business Enterprises program, which is the largest participation by MWBE firms at any public-private partnership project in New York State history. The announcement was made at the community office of the LGA Redevelopment project, located on Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst.
“We are most thankful to the LaGuardia Redevelopment program and the Port Authority’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity for the many opportunities that have opened up for us, being that our firm has been assigned 17 enabling and demolition projects and eight new Concession Projects at LaGuardia Airport,” Gaskin said. “The contracts we were awarded at LaGuardia, at the Main Terminal helped us to sustain staffing at our company during the pandemic when other opportunities were difficult to find during the economic slowdown during COVID.”
Governor Hochul said, “I commend the Port Authority for its commitment to breaking down barriers and leveling the playing field so that minority- and women-owned businesses have access to one of the nation’s greatest infrastructure projects at LaGuardia Airport. As one of the nation’s leading transportation agencies, the Port Authority is demonstrating what can be done to create more equity in our society and make sure that the economic benefits of great infrastructure projects reach all our communities.”
The redevelopment project has also demonstrated a significant focus on working with locally-based contractors; to date, $775 million in contracts have been awarded to Queens-based local business enterprises.
Port Authority Executive Director, Rick Cotton said, “It demonstrates that we are committed to producing results and not promises when it comes to our MWBE agenda. And, our commitment to the communities has been equally intense. I am proud to say that the efforts of our partners, LaGuardia Gateway Partners and Delta, have awarded nearly $800 million in contracts to local Queens businesses.”
Assemblymember, Jeffrion Aubry said, “The LaGuardia Airport redevelopment program’s historic milestone for MWBE participation represents the culmination of many years of work to ensure that the community that has been most impacted by the airport will have the most opportunities at the airport.”
“Almost as astounding as the MWBE numbers is the local hiring for jobs at the airport,” Aubry continued, “Of the 600 jobs filled so far, two-thirds of the new hires are from Queens. Much is said about government when it fails to live up to promises, but LaGuardia’s MWBE program also proves that government can do things right.”
Carrol Bennett, Port Authority Acting Chief of Diversity & Inclusion said, “We are extremely proud of this milestone which demonstrates our steadfast commitment and intentionality to drive results with our partners to provide meaningful contracting opportunities for our Minority-and Women-owned Business. It’s a commitment that fuels our collective efforts to create outreach events, customized training programs and capacity building opportunities to ensure the success of our minority and women-owned business.”
Port Authority also announced in recent weeks several other benefits to the community, in addition to economic benefits.
Terminal B contractor, Skanska, agreed to renovate Elmjack Little League ballfields. The $1.2 million project to renovate the six remaining fields is expected to be completed before the 2022 Little League season kickoff. LaGuardia General Manager, Tony Vero said, “We will be delighted to see the final projects next spring, and hope this safe space stays that way for years to come.”
The Port Authority and the NY State DOT have also begun to renovate the medians along Ditmars Boulevard. Vero said, “Over the years the existing medians really started to show their age. The existing plantings died off and we knew rebuilding the medians in this area would be a wonderful benefit to our community, and to the many, many travelers using this stretch of Ditmars Boulevard and the western entrance of the airport.”
The United Community Civic Association and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards worked together to secure the DOT funds with the Port Authority providing the physical labor.
United Community Civic Association president, Rosemary Poveromo said additional funding, “will enable us to make further safety enhancement to traffic signals and pedestrian ramps that will transform the unsightly medians from ugly to environmentally friendly, eye appealing medians. It’s been a long time coming.”