Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte has joined her State Legislative colleagues in advocating for minority and women-owned business enterprises.
On Friday, Dec. 4, Bichotte, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn, and her colleagues from both the State Senate and Assembly delivered a letter to John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, Gary Labarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades of Greater New York, and members of the negotiating team, who are currently in deliberations around the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the 421-a Property Tax Exemption (Tax Abatement) Program.
The 421-a Property Tax Exemption (Tax Abatement) Program encourages the new construction of affordable housing in New York City.
At the end of the last legislative session, the proposed enhanced program that includes more affordable housing was extended for four years, under the condition that a prevailing wage requirement for construction workers be negotiated within six months.
The agreement reached at the end of the session was that if no understanding between developers and laborers could be reached within the six-month period, which is this month, the program will be suspended until an agreement is reached, Bichotte said.
As part of that discussion, Bichotte said she and her colleagues called for a 30 percent Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) participation goal to be included in the final MOU.
“What we are requesting is nothing new,” Bichotte said. “We are simply emphasizing the necessity to leverage opportunities that the City and State have to address and remedy socio-economic disparities and underscore what Gov. Cuomo has already been calling for, which is to ensure that MWBEs are fully represented throughout the State.”
She said that the last State MWBE disparity study conducted in 2010 showed that MWBEs were “woefully underrepresented”, adding that by including MWBEs in 421-a tax exempted development projects, “we have another opportunity to improve upon that.
“As much as there has been continuous lip service given to the idea of income equality, the reality just does not reflect that,” said Bichotte, stating that the unemployment rate of Blacks remains at 12 percent, more than twice the rate of Whites.
She said the median income of African American households in New York is half that of white New Yorkers.
Additionally, Bichotte said all women across racial lines continue to earn less money on every dollar than men.
When looking at the demographics of New York City alone, she said the minority population accounts for 63 percent of the population, and its female population accounts for 53 percent.
“Yet, if you look at the results from the 2015 Making the Grade report published by NYC Comptroller, Scott Stringer, only 5.3 percent of firms were utilized,” Bichotte said.
She noted that Mayor de Blasio’s administration has been working with City and State legislators to implement programs to close the economic gap “that became progressively wider over the past 20 years in previous administrations.”
Other members of the Assembly and Senate who signed on to the letter include: Assemblymember Keith Wright , chair of Housing; Assemblymember N. Nick Perry, chair of Black, Latino & Asian Caucus; Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz; Assemblymembers Charles Barron, Michael Blake, Diana Richardson, Annette Robinson, Latrice Walker, Michaelle Solages and Barbara Clark; and Senators Leroy Comrie and Senator Jesse Hamilton.
A copy of the letter was also shared with Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.