Affirmative action goals proposed for the Adelphia Communications project on the Buffalo waterfront are "outrageous and regressive," according to an advocacy group that represents minority contractors.
The Coalition for Employment and Economic Development is urging the Common Council to block passage of the deal until Adelphia guarantees that minorities will constitute at least 25 percent of the work force that builds the operations center.
The Council is reviewing a memorandum of understanding that would set a goal of a 15 percent minority and a 5 percent female work force for both construction of the high-rise and its permanent staffing. City Hall sources said Adelphia originally wanted work-force goals of 10 percent minority and 2 percent female.
But John E. Smith, chairman of the not-for-profit coalition, said even a 15 percent minority goal is an "affront" to the minority community.
In a letter to the Council and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, Smith outlined affirmative action goals that governed other major projects that received public subsidies. He said construction of HSBC Arena, the expansion of Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga and modernizations at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park all exceeded their 25 percent minority work-force goals.
"For the mayor to make it sound like this is a great breakthrough for affirmative action is ridiculous," Smith said. "If Adelphia is opposed to a 25 percent minority goal, then maybe we don't need them in our town."
Reacting to Smith's letter, Masiello defended the provisions spelled out in the Adelphia agreement, noting the affirmative action goal amounts to 20 percent minority-female participation.
"I'm very comfortable with the 20 percent. I feel it's a reasonable and achievable goal," Masiello said.
Officials in Adelphia's Coudersport, Pa., headquarters did not return calls seeking comment. When the proposed agreement was submitted to lawmakers last Friday, Council President James W. Pitts said the affirmative action goals would be among the issues to be scrutinized. Pitts has scheduled a meeting of the Council's Auditorium and Stadium Task Force for Thursday, with the proposed Adelphia deal the lone agenda item.
Insiders expect extensive discussion about minority hiring goals and some of the financial terms contained in the agreement. But most predict the Council will approve the Adelphia plan, possibly early next month.
"I think you're going to see the Council pass this agreement 13 to zero," Masiello said, echoing a prediction made last week by Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio.
Project advocates claim the venture will create at least 1,000 new jobs. According to city estimates, Adelphia will receive more than $133 million in public subsidies: $98.6 million from the state, $19 million from the county and $15.5 million from the city. Under the terms of the deal, the company agrees to build a 15- to 30-story operations center at a cost of at least $75 million. Project planners, however, expect the cost to approach $125 million.