Monday, August 1, 2011

Blacks Get Short End Of Stick In NY Set-Aside Contracts

Blacks have trouble competing in the private sector largely because of continued discrimination.  That is why government set-aside programs are necessary to 'allow Blacks to do some business.'  But these programs usually fall far short of putting dollars into black business coffers.  New York City's contracting set-aside program is about par for the course. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council approved a law in 2005 that set voluntary goals for awarding a certain percentage of contracts to businesses registered as owned by minorities or women.

In the last year and a half, about three-quarters of city dollars paid to contractors participating in the program went to companies owned by either Asian Americans or white women. Businesses run by Latinos received 15% of that pool of money. The smallest share, 7%, went to black-run firms. Overall, of the $28 billion paid to prime contractors since January 2010, less than 3% went to companies registered as minority or women-owned. Within that 3%—a pool of $700 million —40% went to firms certified as Asian American. And about 35% of that went to firms owned by white women.

A Long Island staffing agency with $5 million in contracts in 2010 was the black-owned certified company with the highest amount.

Bloomberg aides say the data are misleading, noting that the figures don't account for hundreds of millions going to minority subcontractors or firms that did not register with the program. The figures also don't account for contracts to nonprofits. City officials say black-run businesses have secured a larger and increasing share of sub-contract dollars. In 2010, black-certified firms won 20% of subcontract dollars awarded to firms participating in the program.

Clearly there needs to be a program targeted specifically to Black businesses.  Until the private sector is more user-friendly to Black businesses, such government programs will remain necessary.  (WSJ, 8/1/2011)

Friday, July 22, 2011

DEC Removes 'Nigger' From State Documents

The term Nigger still lingers in environmental conservation laws classifying bodies of water in New York. A regional researcher alerted the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) about the racial epithet two years ago. Officials then did a computer search and found three other examples buried in regulatory indexes and a map. This week, the state quietly moved to correct the problem. While it can't rename local roads and water bodies, the agency is finally scrubbing the n-word from its regulations.

Since it's technically a rule change, the deletions can't happen instantaneously but must first be proposed. The result is one of the more unusual rule changes announced in the official state register, the latest edition of which carries the headline: "Removing a Racially Offensive Term That Appears in the Regulations."

The agency proposed it as a "consensus rule," obviating the need for any public hearings. "DEC has determined that no person is likely to object to the adoption of the rule as written," the register states.
In the meantime, DEC deleted the word from regulations posted on its website. One of those instances, a little, narrow lake in the wooded wilderness of Hamilton County, is now referred to as "unnamed lake."

The required public-comment period still stands, which means the regulations won't officially be amended for another month and a half.

An offensively named road in the town of Danby in Tompkins County is cited in a report posted online in February. The agency was unaware of that until a reporter brought it to its attention on Thursday.

The federal government began to strip the n-word from its topographic maps in the early 1960s. But within the more obscure reaches of cartographic bureaucracy, the n-word occasionally endures. (WSJ, 7/22/2011)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Power NY Act of 2011

Article 10 Reauthorization Law

The Power NY Act of 2011 

The New York Legislature has passed and Govern Andrew Cuomo has signed the “Power NY Act of 2011.” Section 12 of the new law reauthorizes and modernizes Article X of the Public Service Law, which expired on January 1, 2003, governing the siting and approval of power plants in New York.

Like its predecessor, the new version of Article X aims to centralize and streamline the siting approval process, although the threshold for application of the law has been lowered from 80 to 25 megawatts. The law creates and vests permitting authority with the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (“the Board”). The statute provides that two local residents will be part of the Board with the other five members being State officials for each proceeding. The law also provides for “intervenor funding” which will enable municipalities and other local parties to participate in all phases of the administrative review, including the mandated adjudicatory hearing.

The Board is given authority to override local laws and ordinances if they are “unreasonably burdensome.” Unless otherwise agreed to by an applicant or extended due to a “material and substantial amendment to the application” or “extraordinary circumstances,” Board decisions must be rendered within a year of the application being deemed complete.

Article X displaces the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process for covered projects, but mandates several environmental analyses of the facility’s impacts. These analyses include a “cumulative air quality analysis” of the combined effects from the proposed facility, other proposed sources and all existing sources; a description of the demographics of the surrounding community; and a description of “reasonable and available” alternative locations. It also requires the Board to find that the project minimizes or avoids disproportionate impacts on the surrounding community.

There are significant differences between the new version of Article X and the expired version. The lower 25 megawatt threshold will allow smaller projects to be covered by the law and may particularly benefit developers of wind projects, which in most cases would not have been covered by the expired version. The increased emphasis on environmental justice impacts addresses concerns stated by environmental groups. Current applicants for local and state permits for a power plant may elect to be covered by the new law.  (Sive, Paget & Riesel, PC)

Governor Cuomo’s Memorandum on the Legislation

Thursday, June 30, 2011

DEC Office of Environmental Justice to host Statewide Teleconference about Environmental Justice Community Impact Grants

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Office of Environmental Justice is hosting a public teleconference on Thursday, July 14, 2011, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM for individuals interested in the Environmental Justice Community Impact Grants (EJ Grants). Aimee Vargas, the Director of the Office of Environmental Justice, will provide interested organizations with detailed information about the EJ Grants and the application process.
The EJ Grants are available to community-based organizations to fund various projects, including but not limited to community gardens and green roofs, air and water quality monitoring, lead poisoning prevention, urban forestry, subsistence fishing education, environmental education, inventories of local pollution sources, and green worker training. Larger not-for-profit organizations, universities and municipalities can partner with community organizations on funded projects. Community-based organizations, community leaders, municipal and university representatives, and other interested stakeholders are welcome to participate in the conference call, which is part of the DEC’s ongoing outreach efforts which included Technical Workshops throughout the State and an upcoming Video Conference/Webinar on August 10th.

Applications are due Friday, September 9, 2011, and awards are expected to be made in November.

The EJ Grants are funded through the Environmental Justice Community Impact Research Grant program. Launched in 2006 with input from the DEC Office of Environmental Justice’s Environmental Justice Advisory Group, the program helps local organizations with projects to address environmental and public health concerns. The program concentrates on communities that are historically overburdened by problems such as a high density of contaminated sites; noise, air and water pollution; health problems; and a lack of green space and waterfront access.

Individual awards will range from $2,500 to $50,000, and a total of approximately $1 million is available. During the last funding cycle in 2008, DEC awarded 50 grants totaling $1.6 million.

To join the teleconference, participants may call 1-866-394-2346. When prompted, dial the participant code 5385701554, followed by the # sign. When prompted again, press "1" to join the call.

If you have any questions about the teleconference or other questions about the EJ Grants, please call the DEC Office of Environmental Justice at 1-866-229-0497 or 518-402-8556, or e-mail the Office of EJ .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Funding Delay For Sanitation Sites Is Environmental Injustice

City Council members and activists, including AAEA-NY, believe the mayor's plan to delay funding for four sanitation facilities will unfairly burden low-income and minority communities.
In 2006, following intense negotiations, the council and the mayor's administration agreed on a comprehensive "Solid Waste Management Plan" that sought to distribute equitably the siting of undesirable sanitation facilities in the five boroughs. But the mayor's current budget blueprint upends that objective by delaying funding for all of the proposed solid-waste marine-transfer stations in upscale Manhattan—and one in Brooklyn—for five to eight years, well past the end of Mr. Bloomberg's tenure at City Hall. An aide to the mayor said the proposed delay was necessary because of the economy.

The delayed facilities are:

East 91st Street marine transfer station along the East River in Manhattan (FY11 to FY16)

West 59th Street marine transfer station at Pier 99 on the Hudson River in Manhattan (FY 14 to FY 19)

Gansevoort marine transfer station at Pier 52 along the Hudson River in Manhattan (FY13 to FY18)

Southwest Brooklyn marine transfer station along Gravesend Bay (FY 11 to FY 16)

Source: City Hall; New York City Environmental Justice Alliance

The city already has long-term rail contracts in place and two marine transfer stations, along with a new recycling facility, are currently under construction. The delay in funding means the South Bronx, Sunset Park and East Williamsburg in Brooklyn will continue to shoulder the burden of handling the entire city's waste stream. (WSJ, 4/13/2011)