in a Storm
Common Council member expresses concern over minority hiring
in Port of Albany reconstruction
Following a public announcement that $5 million in federal
stimulus money will be used to complete the second phase of
the wharf reconstruction effort underway at the Port of Albany,
local legislators have raised concerns that the project has
not hired enough local or minority employees to fill jobs
created by the state- and federally funded project.
On June 14, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and other local elected
officials gave a press conference at the Port of Albany to
discuss the progress of the wharf restoration project already
under way and to announce the use of federal stimulus funds
to complete the second phase of the project. Days later, an
e-mail was sent by Albany Common Councilman Anton Konev to
a number of his colleagues on the council, denouncing the
hiring practices of the construction company, C.D. Perry &
Sons, and calling for a halt to the multimillion-dollar project
until more local and minority workers are hired.
The e-mail included an unreleased press advisory prepared
by Konev containing the names of councilmen Ron Bailey and
Lester Freeman, Councilwoman Jackie Jenkins-Cox, as well as
former Councilman Corey Ellis. The advisory stated that the
“council members are disappointed that Troy construction company
C.D. Perry & Sons hired for this work has no local minority
workers. They are releasing a letter to Congressman Paul Tonko
and President Barack Obama to call for immediate halt of the
project unless local minority workers are hired.” Konev pushed
for these members to hold a press conference immediately.
In a return e-mail, Freeman cautioned Konev not to “jump the
These allegations are confusing to Jay Ryan, the vice president
of C.D. Perry & Sons.
haven’t heard anything about this,” he said. “We’re a union
contractor, we’re not in the human-resources business, but
we certainly encourage women and minorities to apply and we
have both on the project. We hire exclusively local union
members, and we have a labor contract with limits and goals.
We don’t like to look at people as quotas, but there are specific
goals and we try to reach them.”
An employee utilization report dated May 2010 shows that,
of the 30 employees working on the project at that time, 10
percent were minority (all three were black, non-hispanic
employees). The report also showed that, with 31 percent of
the project completed, 9.29 percent of the total working hours
had gone to minority employees and 9.07 percent to women.
Ryan pointed out that the goal set for this particular project
is 3.2 percent for minorities and 6.9 percent for women.
have exceeded our goals,” said Ryan. “And we’re open to hiring
more, we certainly want to do our part. New people are coming
on board every day, and the next phase will require different
people than the first.”
The reconstruction project is intended to expand and modernize
the current wharf to support more and larger shipments. The
old wooden structures currently are being replaced by steel
and concrete, and two more berths capable of handling large
international shipments are being added. The second phase,
federally funded, will extend the wharf as well as the heavy
rail tracks connecting the port to the main line of CSX and
Canadian Pacific. According to the Port of Albany Web site,
“Previously, the cargo was brought in by train to a point
just outside the port then put onto trucks that brought the
cargo to the port’s existing rail line.”
bigger the boats, the more we can take,” said Albany Port
District Commissioner Dominick Tagliento. “Bigger boats usually
go into New Jersey or New York City. Now we can take them
here,” he said, mentioning that larger shipments also mean
more varied cargo.
think the construction company is doing a great job,” he added,
saying that he had heard nothing about the concerns of the
city legislators. “I think he hires from right here in the
Capital District. I know you have to be qualified—he hires
masons and ironworkers—but, from what I see, they’ve done
everything in the bid and they’re a local outfit.”
Freeman said that the issue has been turned over to Common
Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who did not return calls
for an interview. Jennings’ office didn’t return calls either.
want to have a meeting to find out what they’re actually doing
with the money,” Freeman said. “We’re looking for jobs and
this is one of the projects that could provide them.” Freeman
said that, as far as he knew, no meeting has yet been scheduled.
He also said that he did not know how many minority or local
workers had been hired and expressed a belief that the entire
project was funded with federal stimulus money.
In fact, the first phase of the project—$7.6 million—is being
paid for by the New York State DOT “Rebuild NY Bond Act of
2003” and Albany Port District funding.
The entire $5 million cost of Phase 2 will be covered by federal
Konev said that, following further investigation, a presentation
will be given at the next council caucus on June 30.
If the project is halted, the 33 current employees could lose
their jobs, according to Ryan. Delays would also push back
the projected completion date (October) and cost the city
money in lost port traffic.
them my phone number,” said Ryan. “They’ll have to join a
union, but I invite anyone to apply.”
loose ends this week-