Behind New York’s green plans, a race dilemma

By Guest Columnist Aug 10, 2007

by Mafruza Khan In this era of global warming, green economies are being hailed by (almost) all – from politicians to big business, labor and environment to grassroots groups. Unfortunately, for New York – a greener New York does not mean a fairer one- especially if in the new green economy, many New Yorkers of color continue to live hand to mouth as they do today. And it’s not only the Mayor’s real-estate led economic development strategies that threaten to uproot communities from affordable housing that are problematic. There are other real barriers to opportunity for people of color. For one, the Bloomberg Administration’s track record in addressing racial disparity through other public policies and action is fairly abysmal, despite his progressive views on immigration and police-community relations being one of his stated priorities. Consider the recent report by the City’s Office of the Public Advocate, which finds that in 2006, the city procured $11.2 billion in goods and services, but only $55 million went to certified Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE). In the first half of 2007, M/WBE performance was far short of stated goals. The M/WBE program is supposed to encourage people of color and women to certify with the Department of Small Business Services so that they are eligible for specific benefits. Given the explosive growth of small businesses of color and their contribution to the economy in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods such as Flushing, Sunset Park, Washington Heights and Jackson Heights, this is all the more disturbing. So, while we support and advocate for a green economy with green infrastructure and green jobs, we want to be sure that public contracts and public dollars that billionaire politicians like Mr. Bloomberg will sign off on or negotiate as our white knight, cross traditional color lines, and yield benefits for all of us.