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February 3, 2020
by Adam Roberts
AIANY members testifying at the City Council about MWBEs. Image: AIA New York.

Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE) and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) architecture firms have long faced serious challenges working for the City of New York. Lately though, various city agencies and governing bodies have turned their focus to reducing burdens on these firms.

Many of the issues faced by MWBE firms are the same as those faced by other firms. These include lack of on-time payments, low fees due to the City’s use of “low-bid,” and unresponsiveness from often-understaffed client agencies. However, due to structural inequalities in architecture and society as a whole, MWBE firms tend to be smaller. Their size puts them in a more precarious position than larger firms, who have larger profits and staff.

The administration is undertaking many efforts to improve the situation for MWBEs. One of the most notable initiatives is the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (MOCS) rollout of a new online procurement portal, PASSPort. PASSPort is intended to put procurement entirely online, speeding up payments and contact with client agencies. Earlier this month, MOCS presented to AIANY’s members about the upcoming rollout. If you missed the presentation and would like more information, please contact help@mocs.nyc.gov.

Meanwhile, the City Council is also attempting to address issues facing MWBEs. Last week, the City Council held a hearing for MWBE owners to testify about challenges in the current procurement environment. Numerous AIANY and nycoba/NOMA members testified about the specific issues that affect the architecture community. AIANY will be forming an internal task force to work with the City on solving these problems. We will keep you updated as things progress.

Policy Points:

  • Last week, AIANY members testified in support of 1816-2019, which would adopt the new NYC Energy Conservation Code. Many AIANY members served on a NYC Department of Buildings advisory committee, who made the recommendations that were eventually made into legislation. You can read AIANY’s testimony here.
  • US House Democrats unveiled a sweeping infrastructure plan last week, which would address deficiencies in funding for highways, mass transit, and broadband. Notably, it would shift much federal funding from highways to mass transit. Two years ago, AIANY expressed its opposition to the President’s infrastructure plan. It remains to be seen how seriously this new plan from the US House will be considered.
  • Applications to serve on your community board are due February 14 for Manhattan. Please reach out to Adam Roberts, Director of Policy, at aroberts@aiany.org or 212-358-6116 if you apply or have any questions. He will keep track of your application and will follow up with your Borough President’s and Council Member’s office to advocate for your appointment. More information can be found here.

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