Promoting MWBEs – at Diversity Plaza and Beyond

Jonnel Doris and Karine Williams at Diversity Plaza (Photo via Queens Examiner)

The $4.45 million project to renovate and upgrade Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, to be completed by July 1, 2018, is being led by Akela Contracting. The company’s president, Karine Williams, recently spoke with Benjamin Fang of Queens Examiner about both the project and the process of applying with the city to be certified as a minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE).

She said the process to apply for a city contract was initially difficult because of the paperwork. But when Williams was the lowest bidder for the project, she was assigned a contract manager to help her navigate the process.

“They walk you through the process step by step,” she said. “It eliminated a lot of uneasiness with dealing with the city.

“For any women or minority-owned or small business that is trying to grow and play with the big boys, there’s a lot of challenges there alone. The competition is not on a level playing field,” Williams added. “But the more you keep at it, one day you will get it. You swing at enough balls, eventually you’ll hit one.”

The project, wrote Fang, is slated to bring new trees, raised planters, chairs, tables and bike racks to the plaza, and new water mains, catch basins, sidewalks, curbs, street lighting and traffic signals will be added. Jonnel Doris, director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises, and Ana Barrio, acting commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), were at Diversity Plaza recently to highlight the work of MWBE contractors with the city.

“We’re very excited about what’s happening in Queens. If you look at Diversity Plaza, it’s really a testament to what New York City is all about,” he said. “To have an MWBE actually doing the work in Diversity Plaza, you can’t beat that.”

Go to Queens Examiner to read about how the city and city agencies are working to ensure that the bidding and contracting process is not only open and competitive, but also open to smaller sized contractors.

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