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BCW’s Ravitz Testifies in Albany

As Westchester County’s only business membership organization focused on economic development and advocacy, The Business Council of Westchester was busy last week meeting with legislators as part of the Annual Lobby Day.

BCW Executive Vice President and COO John Ravitz testified before a joint legislative budget hearing on economic development where he discussed the importance of providing a full gaming license for Empire City Casino in Yonkers which is critical to the economic growth of Westchester and New York State. The BCW has for many years urged the state to grant a full gaming license in order to realize the full economic potential of what is one of the most prominent gaming and entertainment venues in the tristate region.

Ravitz also testified on the BCW’s opposition of prevailing wage legislation which has been one of the BCW’s top legislative priorities for the past two years.” Westchester’s urban centers are at the beginning of a major renaissance. New residential projects are transforming Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Peekskill bringing new residents, new jobs and new opportunities. Imposition of prevailing wage legislation would radically increase the cost of private construction projects and poses a very real threat of bringing this phenomenal new project work to a crashing halt,” Ravitz told the legislators.

He noted that with the emergence of the prevailing wage bill last year, Westchester’s most prominent developers joined with the BCW to form The Westchester Coalition to Save Smart Development to strongly oppose legislation to require the payment of prevailing wages on private construction projects receiving any form of state funding support.

“Requiring prevailing wages to non-public work activities, has impacts that reach far well beyond economic development and construction projects. Affordable housing, brownfield remediation, healthcare, higher education and non-for-profit investments and a host of other important areas of development and construction, could fall under the “public work” umbrella simply because they received any type of state assistance or even a tax credit,” he said.

Ravitz explained that prevailing wage is not “minimum wage” but rather the term used for wage rates applied to government “public work” projects such as highway, bridge and tunnel construction. He said applying this to private construction projects would add a minimum of 30% to overall project costs. “For example, a laborer would be paid $100 per hour and employee benefits would be covered 100% by the developer,” he said.

Ravitz concluded, “Westchester County and other regions of New York State need to continue to promote economic development projects which create new jobs, new revenues as well as help the already existing business community in those areas. Passing a prevailing wage law will send a negative message. On behalf of the BCW and our Smart Growth Coalition, I strongly urge you to reject this proposed legislation that will hurt our cities and kill union and non-union jobs alike”.

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