3/25/2010 boropolitics.com

State and city comptrollers praise immigrant workers in Flushing

By Connor Adams Sheets
TimesLedger Newspapers

Photo by Christina Santucci
S & L Aerospace Metals CEO and President Jerry Wang (l.) speaks
to employees and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (seated l.)
and city Comptroller John Liu (seated second l.)

 

State Comptroller  Thomas DiNapoli and city Comptroller John Liu toured S & L Aerospace Metals, one of the many businesses they said have helped keep Flushing from suffering the full brunt of the economic crisis.

The officials visited the manufacturer, located at 120-12 28th Ave., a short distance from the College Point Industrial Park, last Thursday morning to highlight the role immigrants play in the city economy, discussing a report on the topic DiNapoli released earlier this year.

“Too often immigrant contributions are not being quantified and appreciated,” DiNapoli said. “Immigrants built New York City, that’s the history of this town, and they continue to drive this city.”

The report shows that the city’s 1.9 million immigrant workers as of 2008 — who represented 43 percent of the city’s workforce that year — accounted for $215 billion in economic activity, equal to 32 percent of the gross city product. The 10 neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of foreign-born residents — a list that includes Flushing — had stronger economic growth than the rest of New York City between 2000 and 2007, the study concluded.

“This report highlights the contributions of immigrants and helps direct resources to make sure immigrants can produce the most bang for the buck,” Liu said. “Here at S & L, they make the components that in fact help defend the American way of life.”

S & L started in 1947 in Brooklyn as a bicycle part manufacturer. The company moved to Maspeth in 1962, when it merged with another machine shop there. From its humble beginnings, it has grown to employ 100 workers and as a premier hydraulic manufacturer now has 55,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

It now creates high-tech metal components, including landing gear and rotors for helicopters, including the Blackhawk.

It employs 80 percent to 85 percent immigrants, with a majority coming from China, South Korea, Poland, Germany, Ecuador and Puerto Rico, according to Frank Rutkowski, a lab supervisor at the company.

“It’s like the United Nations. We’ve got everything,” Rutkowski said while giving a tour of an assembly area.

In Queens, immigrants make up more than half of the workforce, the only borough where that is true, according to the DiNapoli study. About 53 percent of workers in the city’s manufacturing industry are immigrants, according to the study.

The study is being given to government agencies and other groups for their consideration when deciding where to distribute funds and implement programs, Liu said.