While appreciative of the legislation, which among other features will provide healthcare coverage for the more than 32 million Americans now without it, architects and design professionals sought answers about what the federal government is doing to help the struggling construction industry. Billings at architectural firms slid further down in January, marking the third year of continuous decline, according to the Architectural Billings Index and American Institute of Architects. For many in the profession, news of a rebounding economy doesn’t seem to track with their reality of layoffs, projects going on hold and facing tremendous competition to win new work.
Noting that New York is emerging faster than other states from the recession, Rep. Maloney, whose congressional district includes part of Manhattan and Queens, noted that the construction industry and in particularly architects, haven’t come as far.
“So many frustrated people I meet are architects,” she said. “Architecture is very tied to the construction industry, which hasn’t rebounded as well as other sectors. It’s one of the hardest hit in our economy.”
Some in the audience asked about a possible new Works Progress Administration plan, which was put into place to build the US infrastructure and public buildings amid the Great Depression in the 1930s, and Rep. Maloney agreed with the importance of putting architects to work but didn’t offer specifics. The federal stimulus legislation enacted last year provided funding for sustainable energy and ‘green’ jobs, she said, but those dollars didn’t always translate into design jobs.
She noted that the recent jobs legislation offers incentives including deferral of payroll tax for year for business that hire new workers and a $1,000 tax credit.
US Department of Defense projects – new buildings, expansions and renovations offer opportunities for New York architects who go through the prequalification process, Rep. Maloney said.“We send a lot of dollars to the federal government and we should get back our fair share and we are not going to get our fair share if we don’t apply for it,” she said.
Rep. Maloney also reaffirmed her commitment to fully build the Second Avenue Subway, line, a project that is employing local architects, “I will keep a spotlight on it,” she said. The first stage of the three-stage project is slated for completion in 2016, she said.