DASNY President and CEO Gerrard P. Bushell Delivers Address at CUNY/CUCF Contract Opportunities Conference

DASNY President & CEO Gerrard Bushell speaking at CUNY/CUCF Contract Opportunities Conference.
DASNY President & CEO Gerrard Bushell speaking at CUNY/CUCF Contract Opportunities Conference.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here today. As the President and CEO of DASNY, I have the privilege to lead an organization that serves as a bridge between the State of New York, and New York’s colleges and universities as their financier and builder. 

In this role, we are delivering on one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature achievements. He has set the benchmark with a 30 percent minority- and women-owned business participation rate on State contracts.  For the first quarter of this fiscal year, I am proud to say DASNY is not only meeting this goal -- we are exceeding it. 

The accomplishment is an extension of our long history as a leader in MWBE contract participation. A long history that would not have been possible without the support of our two public higher education systems, the City University of New York and the State University of New York. Both boast premier institutions and play critical roles in growing our economy and swinging the doors open for equality. 

This past year, DASNY and CUNY celebrated the 50th year of our partnership. 

In the sweep of the last half century, DASNY and CUNY have worked together to alter the landscape of New York City and create new avenues of opportunity. Many of you in this room have been pivotal to the success of this partnership. You have played direct roles executing on these projects and we thank you for all that you have done. 

When you look back at the totality of this work, you can see that together we have financed and built the network of colleges that comprise CUNY and made education accessible to millions of New Yorkers. This education made health care, technology and research-focused jobs attainable for New Yorkers as the economy shifted away from traditional manufacturing. Through it all, you can see that inclusion was central to our project delivery. 

Together, we are now responding to new challenges, and providing new solutions. 

This effort starts with the recently completed Advanced Science Research Center, the crown Jewel of CUNY’s decade of science. It was financed and built by DASNY. The glass-enclosed laboratory was designed to breed discoveries that will take medicine and technology in new directions.  Notably, MWBE participation on the construction of the Advanced Science Research Center surpassed the participation goal at the time the contracts were executed. 

The center will help drive New York City into a future defined by discovery and economic prowess. It is the leading edge to a DASNY-supported scientific and technology renaissance underway in the heart of New York City. This year both Columbia University and New York University are opening science centers that were financed with low-cost, tax-exempt bonds that DASNY issued for the universities. 

At the same time, a partnership to construct campus infrastructure that has lasted 50 years means that some our earliest work is now a half-century old. As we embark on the next 50 years, we face the task of maintaining the existing infrastructure while also advancing it to meet CUNY’s new needs. 

DASNY is managing more than 250 projects valued at more than $2 billion on CUNY campuses. This work includes almost $400 million in energy efficiency improvements that will help meet Governor Cuomo’s goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. It also includes upgrades to elevators, escalators, classrooms and facades. 

One example is Brooklyn College, where we recently built a new athletic and fitness center, expanded a theater and arts building, redesigned a library, and replaced windows. 

As we execute this work, inclusion has been and continues to be at the heart of the partnership between CUNY and DASNY. For 50 years we have been helping MWBE firms build their capacities so they can play larger roles.

We started small with an equal opportunity program that in 1971 helped 15 black subcontractors win contracts on CUNY projects with a total value of $1 million. 

A decade later, DASNY implemented legislation signed by Governor Hugh Carey that established a set aside program at York College, and Hostos and Bronx community colleges. The law required that construction contracts for projects on those campuses be set aside for minority-owned firms. In 1983, the program was expanded to include Medgar Evers College. It lives on today.  

These programs established the early dialogue around the importance of integrating minority, and later women-owned firms, into State contracting. They helped make the business case for diversity by showing majority firms that working with MWBEs, and bringing minorities and women on as employees, strengthens their market position. They proved that MWBE contract participation could be successful in raising up those who for too long had been sidelined by the economy. 

With the success of these early programs came broader initiatives. 

The biggest, the foundation of New York State’s robust MWBE contract participation program, was fittingly established by none other than Governor Mario Cuomo. In 1988, Governor Cuomo signed Article 15-A into law to promote employment and business opportunities on State contracts for minorities and women. 

It should be no surprise then that Governor Andrew Cuomo raised the bar on participation to 30 percent. It is a game changer and its effect will be long-lasting. 

As I mentioned, at DASNY we are among the leaders in MWBE contract participation and live up to the ambitions and vision of Governor Cuomo. DASNY serves as a link between prime contractors and MWBE firms. We know the types of firms primes need to get the job done and connect them with MWBE firms that can do it. 

We have now incorporated this role into every contract we execute. DASNY’s Opportunity Programs Group, which focuses on MWBE participation, has been merged with our Procurement Unit. Together, they ensure that MWBE participation is a priority at every step of the DASNY contracting process. 

This includes projects delivered through alternative methods, such as design-build, construction manager-at-risk and construction manager build. These procurement methods mirror the private sector to reduce costs, speed delivery and better share risk. When we review bids for them, we heavily weigh MWBE participation plans, putting participation at the forefront of the contracting process. 

Of course, MWBE contracting is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It is about growing companies led by minorities and women. It is about expanding their capacities so they can take on larger roles, as we do through DASNY’s surety bond training program. MWBE contracting is – at its core – about building inclusive communities across New York State. 

Inclusive communities are attractive to businesses looking to move to or expand in New York. Inclusive communities help make New York more competitive in the 21st century global economy. They build a sturdy economic foundation. To create this foundation, all of us must work together to take advantage of the opportunities we have. 

This means building new partnerships and reinvigorating the old. It means working together to continue to remove the barriers from the path of success for the next generation. It means leading New York State into a bright and fruitful future. Thank you.