How much of the work on the Brooklyn Bridge will go to minorities and women?

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(Kate Hinds, WNYC) Earlier this week we wrote about Brooklyn Bridge contractor Skanska and how, at one point in the bidding process, their bid did not meet the city’s 14% disadvantaged business enterprise goal. The city expressed concern—but wound up awarding them the contract anyway.

Yesterday we got to ask NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan about the number of minority and women-owned businesses being employed on the job as subcontractors. You can listen to it here and read the transcript below.

Reporter: How is DBE compliance going to be made public?

JSK: I believe that it will be included on the tracking information that’s out there.

Reporter: It’s not now. (Crosstalk)

JSK: Well, we have it internally, I believe our goal is 14% DBE, and I think we’re tracking around 10% DBE. That’s not a requirement – that’s just something that we, the City of New York, and the city Department of Transportation feel very strongly about. And when you take a look at the fact that we let a billion dollars worth of contracts last year alone--a billion dollars--and all of them have significant MBE, M/WBE requirements, we’ve put some, I think it’s like 127 million dollars worth of work that went out to MBEs, so there’s a lot of work that’s out there—it’s actually getting difficult to find MBEs and M/WBEs to meet the requirements that we’ve got right now.

Ten percent is higher than the eight percent in Skanska’s July bid, but still a ways away from the 14% the city stated that it wanted.

On the heels of yesterday’s conversation, the commissioner’s spokesperson sent us an email to “clarify” the commissioner’s words. “The contractor is at 10% DBEs and demonstrated (not only to us but also to the State and Feds) that they were making a good faith effort to reach the goal, as required. That’s more than $50 million on this contract going to DBEs.”

That’s $50 million out of a $508 million total.

Meanwhile, we’re mulling over the difference between a “goal” and a “requirement.” We’ve been trying to figure this out for a few weeks now. Here’s a May 7th email exchange between WNYC and a DOT spokesperson, who was responding to a question about how DBEs are counted:

“The 14 percent goal is 14 percent of the entire contract value, credited with 100 percent of subcontract value for subcontracts, and 60 percent of the total value for material supply contracts. The requirement is monitored through DOT. There are penalties for non-compliance in accordance with the contract and Federal law.”

And in a May 26th exchange between WNYC and that spokesperson, we asked: “Can you confirm that it’s a requirement of the contract that Skanska meet the 14% DBE goal?”

NYC DOT spokesperson: “Yes, 14% is the goal.”

So what we’d like to find out: is that 14% number a goal—or a requirement? How will Skanska be held accountable for that 14% number—and how will WNYC and the public know if they don’t meet it?