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City Politics

African- American Share Of NYC's Pie


We’re missing so much, we don’t even know
it’s gone

NYC Vendor Spending
Jan. 2012-Dec. 2012

Total: Apx. $18 billion dollars

Total to African-American Vendors: $27 million

View From Here ■ By David Mark Greaves Once we put aside the Pilgrim stories and let Thanksgiving be a time to give thanks for life and what there is of the harvest, it could also be a time to take a pause and ask why the harvest is always so thin for so many. There is nothing wrong with the African-American community that money wouldn’t right and the New York City budget has a lot of it, but our share is obscenely low.


As you can see on the pie graph below, of the January 2012-December 2012 allocation of city vendor spending, of the roughly $18 billion spent, only $27.8 million (0.1544%) was allotted to African-American firms, a laser-sliced portion that does not even warrant the term crumb, which at least has a certain perverse dignity about it. What we see in this chart is the legacy of slavery, white supremacy and exclusion and it should be a source of deep embarrassment for any city administration and it’s this correction that belongs on every agency and politician’s agenda. Because how the city spends its money matters and it is a metric that can be directed, tracked and accounted for.

Now if African-Americans received their fair share, say something approximating the 25% of the African-American population of the city, it would go a long way to solving problems of unemployment and despair, saving neighborhoods and making them safer; we’d be healthier and families would come together, children would go off to college and the investment in the human capital of the city would take it into the future like a Select Service bus on magnetic rails. “Of course, 25% wouldn’t happen overnight”, said Comptroller John Liu, speaking of how to increase MWBE spending in a recent interview, but for an administration “serious about leveling the playing field”, it would be “possible to move it several percentage points”.

As the city transitions into the Mayor de Blasio era and we watch his administration take hold, we will watch also how many points this needle moves because it will be a hard indication of the seriousness about reducing economic disparities and bringing an end to the tale of two cities.