FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 10, 2013
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)
BOL Vice Chair Williams Urges Astorino to Support Construction Jobs Bill
White Plains, NY – Acknowledging that unemployment in the building trades around the county continues to stand at record levels, Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) urged County Executive Rob Astorino today to support two bills pending in the New York State Legislature that would create jobs for county residents by requiring bidders for public works, construction and purchase contracts to hire and retain workers from certain Westchester County communities with high rates of joblessness and poverty.
The legislation, which originated with Williams, the BOL Sub-Committee on Capital Projects, has been introduced in Albany by NY State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow and NY State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson. Presently, the only obstacle to these bills being voted upon by the New York State Legislature is the BOL approval of a Home Rule message, which neither County Executive Rob Astorino nor Republican members of the BOL have supported.
“Approximately two-thirds of county taxpayers’ dollars for public works projects is spent to hire people who do not even reside in Westchester, while pockets of high unemployment are not being addressed,” said Williams. “This new legislation will ensure that skilled trades people who need work will get a fair shot at projects being undertaken here in the county, which will, in turn, help boost local economies.”
Williams said that he reached out to the Astorino to ask for his support of the bill but has received no response.
The new legislation, if passed and signed into law, will compare the unemployment and poverty rates of targeted communities to similar rates countywide. If the targeted community rates exceed the countywide rate by ten percent or more, then Westchester County may require a bidder to hire a minimum number of his workers (and subcontractors) from that community. The County may also require a bidder to establish apprenticeship and training programs for workers residing in the targeted communities in certain construction trades.
“It makes no sense that sixty-seven percent of Westchester taxpayer-funded jobs are being shipped out of the county with unemployment in the construction trades as high as it is here,” said Williams. “We need to make a concerted effort to bring down the unemployment rate in the county by creating jobs for our residents first before hiring contractors who drive in here from out-of-state.”
Although Westchester County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, its major population centers contain large pockets of poverty and high unemployment. The new legislation would reduce joblessness and poverty in several communities, including Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Peekskill, Ossining and New Rochelle. Under the bill, the largest percent of job creation would be in Yonkers because the poverty-unemployment index for Yonkers exceeded the countywide index by 44%. Mount Vernon follows next at 40%, then New Rochelle at 37%, Peekskill at 30% and Ossining at 18%.
Williams noted that several of his BOL colleagues, including those representing the hard-pressed communities mentioned above, have committed to voting for the passage of a Home Rule law so that the state legislature may take up the bill, while others have not.
“As we emerge from the economic recession, it’s important that we do everything possible to help create new jobs and spread benefits of the recovery to those who suffered the most,” remarked Williams. “Helping to move this legislation forward would be a great way for the County Executive to show that he’s concerned about all of Westchester.”
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