NEW YORK ( – The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the 51-member New York City Council recently released a report that confirmed what many leaders in communities of color have long contended: Members of their communities, and women in general, with businesses are not awarded their fair share of city contracts.

The $1.3 million statistical study showed that from mid-1997 to mid-2002, only 11.7 percent, or $2.2 billion, of nearly $19 billion in contracts for standard services and goods, architecture, engineering, professional services and construction went to companies owned by Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women.

The announcement of the report’s findings were made at a City Hall press conference on Jan. 25, four days after Brooklyn Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D) told reporters that Whites make up 46 percent of the city’s population and 92 percent of the Fire Department. She also noted that only 28 out of the 8,700 firefighters were women.


Councilwoman Clarke addressed the press on both occasions. “As an advocate for economic empowerment and equality in all communities, I am thankful that this study will finally bring to the forefront the issue of economic discrimination that takes place in our city every day,” Ms. Clarke said, adding that the study was a mandate for the City of New York to overhaul its way of doing business.

“No longer should the way the city does business depend on the color of your skin or who you play golf with, but whether your business is competent and able to do the job,” she insisted.

In addressing the issue of the lack of diversity in the Fire Department, which the second-term councilwoman called “appalling,” she issued a warning: “If the department does not clean up its mess, sooner or later a court will.”

At a hearing of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, which is chaired by Ms. Clarke, Deputy Fire Commissioner Douglas White said, over the past three years, “minorities” made up nearly 15 percent of the incoming recruits. He added that 74 women were on the waiting list. The process in bringing women and minorities into the department is admittedly slow, Mr. White said. “It is very slow, no question about it.”

In regards to city contracting, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the administration was making progress towards inclusion.

“Since 2003, our administration has increased the number of minority- and women-owned businesses that may bid for city contracts to 700 more than were allowed to bid for city contracts in the previous five years,” spokesman Paul Elliot said in a prepared statement. He also said there was a mayoral taskforce aimed at improving access.

Observers say the city has much ground to make up. The study shows, for example, the wide disparity in awarded contracts valued at less than $1 million. Blacks represented 16.7 percent of available construction firms, but were awarded 1.7 percent of contracts. Female-owned businesses represented 21.5 percent of available architecture and engineering firms, but were awarded 3.2 percent of contracts. White male-dominated companies were awarded 77.9 percent of all architecture and engineering contracts and 71.5 percent of construction contracts.