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Nassau Coliseum’s renovation needs to hire minority workers, activists say at rally

E. Reginald Pope, left, vice president of the

E. Reginald Pope, left, vice president of the National Action Network's Nassau County Chapter, and community activists Marcellus Morris and Ron Norman stand outside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, talking about the lack of jobs for minorities in the Coliseum's renovation, on Dec. 23, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Several men carrying signs that said “Black Jobs Matter” gathered Wednesday outside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which is undergoing renovation, to say workers from minority communities should be hired to work at the Uniondale site.

“I don’t know exactly who’s getting the jobs, but I know we are not getting the jobs and we are right here in the backyard,” said Ronald Norman, 40, a Hempstead construction worker.

E. Reginald Pope, vice president of the Nassau chapter of the National Action Network, was one of seven protesters. He said he was standing up for “marginalized communities that are disenfranchised” in a part of Nassau County that he called “the black belt,” areas from Elmont to Westbury where many blacks and Latinos reside.

The complaints came more than a month after a ceremonial groundbreaking for $261 million worth of renovations.

Ashley Cotton, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn-based developer and coliseum managing partner Forest City Ratner Cos., saw the protest as premature. She said the company has a track record of working with minority contractors at the Barclays Center, for which it was the developer in Brooklyn.

She said two contracts for undisclosed amounts have been awarded for the Coliseum and, so far, half of the dollars committed have gone to a firm designated as minority-owned.

“We are deeply committed to contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses and hiring minority and women union workers on our projects,” said Cotton, a senior vice president of Forest City Ratner Cos. “Throughout our 30 years in development, we have made every effort to meet our goals in these areas and we are very proud of our results. We expect to have the same success in Nassau County.”

The Onexim Group — a company in Moscow whose founder, Mikhail Prokhorov, is among project investors — did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Prokhorov, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, acquired a majority stake in the Coliseum.

The project’s developer is Bruce Ratner, Forest City’s chairman. The Coliseum will be managed by the Nassau Events Center as part of an agreement among investors.

Plans unveiled by the developer are for a refurbished arena with 13,000 seats to house a minor league hockey team, other sports events and other attractions. The proposed complex is expected to reopen in December 2016.

Construction will bring more than $330 million in economic activity to Nassau County, according to the project’s partners.

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