Monday, May 10, 2010

Best Bet for Aqueduct Jobs? by Howard Koplowitz -

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Minority and Women Biz Got Better Guarantees from AEG Competitors

Aqueduct Entertainment Group, the consortium selected to install video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Race Track before it was deemed unlicensable by the state Lottery Division, may not have been the best firm in terms of creating jobs for minorities. Photo by Christina Santucci

Southeast Queens leaders strongly backed Aqueduct Entertainment Group’s bid to install 4,500 video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Race Track, but the consortium may not have had the best plan to benefit minorities.

AEG was selected by Gov. David Paterson, state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) for the VLT contract in January, but the group was deemed unlicensable in March by the state Lottery Division.

AEG came under scrutiny because of the stake, however small, held by Rev. Floyd Flake of the Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica. He met with Paterson three days after AEG was selected for the VLT contract, which sparked speculation the governor may have chosen the group to gain the politically powerful minister’s support for election against .

But Paterson wound up dropping his bid for governor.

Flake withdrew from AEG after he was put in the media spotlight, saying it had become a distraction from his other interests.

Paterson released documents submitted by AEG and the four other bidders for the VLT contract in February, including each of the group’s plans for participation in the project by firms owned by minorities and women.

AEG’s documents showed it would hire no less than 20 percent of minority or women-owned contractors or subcontractors for the development of the VLT facility.

The group defined development as the design, pre-construction and operation/maintenance phases of the VLT project. The consortium also said it would have an overall goal of 25 percent minority and female-owned businesses participating in the construction of the facility.

A minority-owned business is a firm where at least 51 percent of the company is owned by a minority and a women-owned business is the same concept with at least 51 percent owned by women.

AEG and the four other firms did not break down exactly what percent of minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses they would hire, but The Opportunity, a newspaper distributed in southeast Queens, said AEG pledged that 20 percent of construction contracts would go to minority businesses and 10 percent would go to women-owned businesses.

AEG could not be reached to verify the paper’s numbers.

While every bidder outlined minority- and women-owned business participation in either the development or construction phases of the contract, only one group, Delaware North, specified how many permanent jobs would go to minorities once the VLTs were installed.

Delaware North said its goal was to hire 330 minorities for the more than 1,000 permanent jobs that would be available at Aqueduct.

Of the tradesmen, laborers and contractors hired to develop the project, Delaware North said 27 percent of those jobs would go to women “and members of minority communities and other disadvantaged groups.”

Bidder SL Green, which partnered with Hard Rock Entertainment for its Aqueduct proposal, said 20 percent of the contractor and subcontractors hired for the development and operation of the VLTs would be from minority and women-owned businesses while 25 percent would be hired for the construction of the facility.

Aqueduct Gaming Investors, a group led by R. Donohue Peebles, a Florida-based black entrepreneurial real estate developer, said 40 percent of jobs for the project would go to minority- or women-owned businesses.

Bidder Penn National Gaming did not specify its plan for minority and women participation in the VLT project. It only submitted plans of a casino it is developing in Pennsylvania as an example, but the documents did not specify a percentage of minority- and women-owned businesses involved in the project.