New Minority Business Law Under Fire From Some Latino Firms

Some Hispanic-owned construction firms question if a new law intended to help them will actually hurt their business. (Photo by Thomas Huston, via flickr, Creative Commons License)

A law aimed at helping minority and women-owned businesses secure contracts with city agencies has left some Hispanic business leaders fuming.

Mayor Bloomberg signed on Monday the bill Intro-911-A, which the City Council’s Committee on Contracts had previously passed unanimously.

The new bill is a revised version of Local Law 129, which passed in 2005. Local Law 129 established the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise program.

“We are outraged by this law because it discriminates against Latinos,” said Frank García, chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “How can it possibly be approved unanimously when we weren’t even included in the exploratory committee that established that there are not enough construction firms in New York City.”

Local Law 129 sought to increase the number of minority business from 700 to 3,500. The new law eliminates a $1 million cap on program eligible contracts, and it is estimated to triple the total value of contracts from $433 million to a projected $2.2 billion.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn supported the Intro 911-A bill, along with Latina Councilwomen Diana Reyna and Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Detractors of the law noted that the revised bill would lower procurement goals for Hispanic-owned construction firms from 9 percent to 4 percent of city contracts.

“We will fight tirelessly to unmask Christine Quinn, who supports the percentage reduction without even consulting the state’s Hispanic organizations,” said García, who testified in the City Council before Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law. “They did this without sending us any type of warning. This is a slow but sure process towards establishing a discriminatory pattern against minority businesses.”

“This is a great law, but it has its problems,” said Peter Fontanés, chair of the New York Association of Hispanics in Real Estate and Construction, who also testified in the City Council before the signing of the bill.

But not everyone in the Hispanic business community objected to the revised law.

“Frank García and Peter Fontanés were the only ones to speak against Intro 911 at City Hall,” said Alfredo Pláceres, of the New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Voting against this law would have kept on reducing the number of contracts of Hispanic and Black businesses with the City of New York.”

The rivalry between García and Pláceres has been harmful for the chambers of commerce in New York State, due to the absence of new leadership or for promoting chambers of commerce that are either fictitious or lack legality.

Elizabeth Vélez, president of the construction firm Vélez Organization and of the Latino Builders Council, said that the success of company depends on access to opportunities and “this new law rectifies the limited representation of minority and women-owned businesses in city contracts.”

5 Comments

  1. The title of this article is misleading, as the article rightly points out that not all Latino firms oppose the new law. It’s a rivalry between two so-called and very vocal leaders in the Latino community. There’s nothing in this article, other than allegations by one of these leaders, that indicates the new law is discriminatory or would be harmful to Latino-owned businesses in any way.

  2. It is not a rivalry between Frank Garcia and myself that has been “harmful for the chambers of commerce” as your article states. Our current dispute over Intro 911 illustrates what is the problem.
    Leaders are supposed to listen to their constituents. Every Hispanic chamber and MWBE that testified at the bill signing with the notable exception of
    Frank Garcia and Peter Fontanes who are quoted in this article, supported the bill. Every Latino legislator voted in support of Intro 911. The City Council almost unanimously voted in favor of this legislation. These
    two “leaders” need to get with the program. They need to stop their griping and grandstanding. The debate is over. Tntro 911 is now law. If not now, then when will they start listening to their Latino legislators and chamber and small business leaders who have made it
    crystal clear where they stand? We don’t suffer fools gladly.

    Alfred Placeres, President
    NYS Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce

  3. Peter Fontanes says:

    Al Placeres has a problem getting his facts correct. This is no surprise. He was thrown off the Borad if Directors and lost his chamber membership from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He is now in court for stealing money from an immigrant whom he represented. He calls himself an advocate for Latinos but accussed Latino firms as being most likely to commit fraud in seeking MBE certification. And he has refused to have an election in his own chamber for 20 years! So who is the fool now? This man has pushed back the Latino business community with his arrogance, insults and back stabbing.

  4. alfred placeres says:

    I am responding to Mr. Fontanes outrageous comments above.
    It appears that Mr. Fontanes has graduated from white noise to slander. Not one of his allegations is correct. First off, I was not thrown off the Board of
    the USHCC as he claims I came off the USHCC Board after
    serving two full terms. USHCC Board bylaws have term limits that do not allow for a third term. Incidentally I was elected in both elections by a 4 to 1 margin where I was opposed by candidates supported by Mr. Fontanes and his “NYS Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. While on the USHCC Board, I chaired the Immigration, DR-CAFTA and Cuba Trade Committees. I still hold the record for the most votes received by a candidate in a USHCC Board election. I left the USHCC in 2010 with an exemplary record.
    The civil suit against met that he refers to is being appealed. It involves an immigrant engineer who married a U.S. Citizen while under deportation proceedings . He brought a civil suit against me in 2004 alleging that he failed to appear in Immigration Court in 1998 because a paralegal told him on my behalf, not to appear and he followed her wrong advice. This civil suit makes no allegation “stealing money.” In fact, the plaintiff testified at trial that he never actually met me. Mr. Fontantes allegation that I was accused of “stealing money” is not only absurd but slanderous and I don’t suffer fools gladly.
    Lastly, my position on MWBE certification with NYC is that all applicants for MWBE certification should be required to attest to what they claim for eligibility on their applications. Attestations will help to avoid fraud and preserve the integrity of the City’s certification process Mr.Fontanes and his cohort Mr. Garcia should get their facts straight before yapping and emailing away.
    Lastly, what do any of these false allegations against me by Mr.Fonanes have to with this article on Intro 911 and his opposition. His baffle them with bullshit strategy did not sway the Mayor or the City Council and is not working here either.
    Alfred Placeres

  5. After perusing the article and reading the comments, I have two things to add. 1) by this article the percentage of Hispanic owned businesses to be contracted was reduced. Less firms will be contracted. That’s harmful to them and to state otherwise as the comments below tried to is malarky. 2) By your own admission in the comments Mr. Placeres you allowed a paralegal to give incorrect information to a client resulting in substantial harm to that client. Albeit you were “not involved” I’m sure you collected your portion of fees from that client which is why you were found liable. You do carry responsibility for errors resulting in harm to the Hispanic community. Your own words brought me to this conclusion.To dodge them as you did in your own comments says much about you. Mr. Garcia may be a rabblerouser, but he’s correct in that this law is not a panacea for all Hispanic businesses. I comend him for being on the right side of this issue when everyone else “sold out.”

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