The Port Authority is getting the JFK redevelopment program into high gear. It has just completed the first two community forums to introduce the program to the nearby areas and to elicit Southeast Queens community feedback, opinions and suggestions on a wide variety of issues. Foremost and important is the matter of jobs and opportunity according to both the Port and people who attended the meetings.
It was announced at the begging of the forums that this is the beginning of a process. The framework has been created by the Port but the meat on the bones was to be added after consultation and interaction with the communities. At this time, there have not been any formal commitments by investment groups nor airlines nor terminal operators Port said.
Aviation Director Huntley Lawrence attended the first forum in Far Rockaway and was on a panel that was there to present the initiative and to seek resident input.
From the start he stated the desire of Port is to listen to the needs of businesses and people from SEQueens before any actual plans are made. So, he said it was important for all interested in doing business as contractors with Port need to step it up and do whatever is necessary to be part of the procurement.
Guests were asked to write questions on index cards for the panel to answer following the presentation.
The bulk of the questions were about jobs, training, minority opportunities. Both Director Lawrence and Director Government and Community Affairs Justin Bernbach stressed that this meeting was the beginning of many that would bring the nearby airport communities into the redevelopment process and YES, to all the above questions. b Lawrence stressed that it is critical for any firm wishing to do business needs to begin the process of application, certification and listing of their business on the Port Authority website as certified minority companies.
When the question was asked about Community Benefits Agreements, Lawrence said that the “ this detail is something the community has to tell us”, which follows with the procedure that Port wants specific input from the community.
Some of the websites to visit to begin this process are: www.panyn
At the second meeting in Jamaica, the same presentation was made to a much larger audience filled with individuals, political groups, District Boards and local politicians. Again, the key questions revolved around jobs, training and contracting opportunities. When asked specifically about training, Bernbach asked the audience “ what do you want. what do you need”? He pointed out that these forums are just the beginning of many meetings and that the Port delegations were on hand to provide as much information as possible to inform everyone what the status is and how to be part of the contract process and listen to all the requests and needs of the communities involved. He said that a board would be created comprised of a wide selection of stakeholders to help guide the JFK Redevelopment Program forward. A website is currently under construction that will be the point of information for the JFK Redevelopment Program in the very near future. He said that Port has just completed a scholarship with Vaughn College and that this might be a model for educational training with this project..
Bernbach also pointed current job seekers to the Council for Airport Opportunity (CAO) and businesses to contact the Queens ASDO for business contacts as well as community hire hall which will be part of the community offices that will be set up to engage with all who wish to benefit from the many years of construction, retail, and related employment that will be generated by this program. Another panel speaker said that typically a lot of work is done by unions but there will also be a lot of opportunity for non-union private concerns as well as subcontracting jobs. Ida Berich of the Port also reminded everyone that there are jobs available right now. She suggested that young people begin to get involved because there are many airport relate opportunities now and those who get involved now will benefit as the project moves forward.
At the second meeting Michael Massiah explained that the Port takes minority and women owned business very seriously, He said he was recently appointed as Port Authority Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and is very serious about making sure the economic needs of the communities would be met. Massiah made it clear that there is a 30% MBE/MWBE/SBE and DBE stipulation but interested parties must make themselves known to the procurement process.
These meetings went a long way is establishing a working relationship between government and the public. Despite one individual who stood up and complained about the agenda and question and answer process, he was discouraged to continue his rant by the majority of the guests who believed that the Port has made a sincere effort to bring the community into the first phase of redevelopment and that opportunities are there for the community to grow with the airport project.
Lawrence said that people need to get their companies qualified so Port can get you the opportunity for anything and everything that we have out there”. As the Director of the JFK Redevelopment Jim Steven said “Port is struggling to find local firms to be involved” so he and everyone else strongly recommended interested parties begin their application process, certification and procurement enrollment immediately.
According to Senator Sanders who represents a large part of the community affected, “I implore people to get ready for what is about to happen in Queens and not let opportunity pass them by”. Here are a few names and emails of those who can assist with guidance throughout the certification application process:
There is no definite date for the next community forum but it may be in August. Port said it will advertise these through their social media, community leaders and flyers that make their way around the community.