A law aimed at helping minority and women-owned businesses secure contracts with city agencies has left some Hispanic business leaders fuming.
Mayor Bloomberg signed on Monday the bill Intro-911-A, which the City Council’s Committee on Contracts had previously passed unanimously.
The new bill is a revised version of Local Law 129, which passed in 2005. Local Law 129 established the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise program.
“We are outraged by this law because it discriminates against Latinos,” said Frank García, chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “How can it possibly be approved unanimously when we weren’t even included in the exploratory committee that established that there are not enough construction firms in New York City.”
Local Law 129 sought to increase the number of minority business from 700 to 3,500. The new law eliminates a $1 million cap on program eligible contracts, and it is estimated to triple the total value of contracts from $433 million to a projected $2.2 billion.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn supported the Intro 911-A bill, along with Latina Councilwomen Diana Reyna and Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Detractors of the law noted that the revised bill would lower procurement goals for Hispanic-owned construction firms from 9 percent to 4 percent of city contracts.
“We will fight tirelessly to unmask Christine Quinn, who supports the percentage reduction without even consulting the state’s Hispanic organizations,” said García, who testified in the City Council before Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law. “They did this without sending us any type of warning. This is a slow but sure process towards establishing a discriminatory pattern against minority businesses.”
“This is a great law, but it has its problems,” said Peter Fontanés, chair of the New York Association of Hispanics in Real Estate and Construction, who also testified in the City Council before the signing of the bill.
But not everyone in the Hispanic business community objected to the revised law.
“Frank García and Peter Fontanés were the only ones to speak against Intro 911 at City Hall,” said Alfredo Pláceres, of the New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Voting against this law would have kept on reducing the number of contracts of Hispanic and Black businesses with the City of New York.”
The rivalry between García and Pláceres has been harmful for the chambers of commerce in New York State, due to the absence of new leadership or for promoting chambers of commerce that are either fictitious or lack legality.
Elizabeth Vélez, president of the construction firm Vélez Organization and of the Latino Builders Council, said that the success of company depends on access to opportunities and “this new law rectifies the limited representation of minority and women-owned businesses in city contracts.”