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Two Plymouth law firms have merged

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Two Plymouth law firms have amalgamated – and celebrated with the help of a furry friend.

Wolfie, the mascot, helped mark the joining of Wolferstans Solicitors with Clark & Weeks Solicitors.

North Hill-headquartered Wolferstans will now turn the other firm’s offices in the Ridgeway into a new Wolferstans branch.

The newly branded firm will continue to operate from the same premises Clark & Weeks used in the heart of Plympton.

The newly merged entity said the range of services and support delivered to clients will be enhanced whilst retaining the detailed care and attention enjoyed by Clark & Weeks clients since the office opened 20 years ago.

Martin Weeks will become a partner of the newly merged firms whilst Tony Clark and Pam Millett will become consultants.

READ NEXT: Top lawyers’ concerns over ‘stagnant’ property market

The merger will also result in the firm having one of the largest residential conveyancing departments in Plymouth, with a total of 31 professionals, comprising qualified solicitors, chartered legal executives and a licensed conveyancer, together with experienced and knowledgeable support staff.

John Chapman, senior partner at Wolferstans, said “We are delighted to be amalgamating with Clark & Weeks in such a thriving community as Plympton.

“We welcome all our new clients and staff and look forward to the many opportunities this will present.”

READ NEXT: Law Society looks ahead to Mayflower 2020 event

Wolferstans partner and head of residential conveyancing Sue Williams is the 2017 Plymouth Law Society president.

She also sits on the Law Society’s Conveyancing and Land Law Committee, which advises the profession and liaises with the Government on new legislation.

She has been involved with setting up the Conveyancing Quality Scheme and drafting the Law Society’s transactional protocol forms.

Mrs Williams is also the Law Society representative for the National House Building Council (NHBC).

READ NEXT: Herald Business Awards 2017 – the shortlist

Mr Weeks was the 2016 Plymouth Law Society president.

The firms said all matters related to Clark & Weeks will continue uninterrupted and staff can be contacted at the Ridgeway premises on 01752 345311.

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Merger talks break down between two major law firms

The marriage is off between Midtown powerhouse law firm Herrick Feinstein and the D.C. based Crowell & Moring.

A spokesman for Herrick confirmed to The Post that the talks, which had been ongoing since November, broke down last week.

“It’s like a marriage but infinitely complex,” the spokesman said. “In the beginning, it was appealing, but as you went along you see the synergies are not there.”

With 500 attorneys and its base in D.C., the much larger Crowell is focused on politics. Founded in 1979, it has had a small Manhattan office for a decade. It has been seeking a more corporate and national presence but needs to beef up the City office, which has been slowly growing.

Crowell’s spokesman could not be reached.

Next year will be Herrick’s 90th anniversary. The 130-attorney firm represents the Yankees and the Port Authority and has a strong real estate practice with clients from Toll Brothers to the Empire State Realty Trust.

After all the due diligence and getting-to-know you meetings — including one in Herrick’s 2 Park Ave. amphitheater — Herrick has not been soured to another merger, but merely felt this wasn’t the right partner.

“We have a long legacy as an independent firm and the enthusiasm to be a stronger firm on our own,” the spokesman explained. “But it is a complex legal market and so all options are on the table.”

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The Legal Vertical Is Already Corporatized; Law Firms Should Be Permitted To Operate That Way, Too

Shutterstock

It’s time to stop pretending that the $300B U.S. legal industry is anything but big business. All legal providers—including law firms– should be able to operate from a corporate structure. That means they can accept institutional investment capital, share profits with ‘non-lawyers’, and grant shareholders residual equity in the firm after departure. This structure promotes a long-term view that better aligns the interests of lawyers, the firm, and clients. The present U.S. regulatory scheme does not allow law firms to be structured this way, and that is a key reason why firms have failed to innovate– even as their partnership model is showing stress cracks.  They have lost considerable market share to corporate legal departments and legal service providers, both of whom have corporate structures. The regulatory double standard is harmful to clients as well as law firms and should be reformed as it has been in the UK, Australia, and soon, in other nations.

In-House Legal Departments Have Corporate Structures

In-house lawyers can share in the profits of the enterprise and acquire stock options. In fact, the long-term financial component is a key element of compensation and one of several reasons why many talented lawyers are moving from firms to corporate legal departments. The in-house corporate structure—with its short-and long- term performance metrics and rewards– promotes an alignment of interest between lawyer and client lacking in law firms. It also encourages in-house lawyers to function dually as enterprise defenders and business partners advancing enterprise interests. There’s a push-pull in the dual roles to be sure, but good lawyers find a balance. That’s no different than when a firm client exerts financial leverage on a law firm partner to push the envelope.

The Regulatory Double Standard

The current U.S. regulatory scheme prevents law firms to operate from a corporate structure. This adversely affects legal consumers and the profession for a spate of reasons: (1) U.S. regulations that preclude law firms from accepting outside capital, profit sharing, and liquidity events—except bankruptcy—are outdated; (2) concerns that a corporate structure would undermine the attorney-client relationship and create a unique set of ethical and financial conflicts are unfounded—those conflicts already exist; (3) a large segment of the corporate legal market already operates from corporate structures—that includes in-house legal departments and service providers that together have a nearly 50% market share; (4) the boundaries between ‘engaging in the practice of law’ –law firms– and ‘delivering legal services’–everyone else– are blurred, overlap, and should be jettisoned provided that all legal providers—regardless of structure– are subject to the same ethics rules and code of professional conduct; (6) this is exactly how the legal market functions in the UK, Australia, and other nations that permit some form of ‘alternative business structures’; and (7) enabling law firms to operate from a corporate structure would benefit clients and the profession by promoting long-term provider continuity and sustainability lacking in the incumbent partnership model– while spurring innovation, competition, and, perhaps, a cultural reboot within firms.

The Law Firm Partnership Model Had A Great, Long Run. It’s Over.

The traditional law firm partnership model has had a long, highly prosperous run. The data  indicates that’s over for all but a handful of elite, brand differentiated law firms. Those 20 or so firms are retained for high-stakes matters whose enterprise value renders them price insensitive. And while ‘bet the company’ matters—litigation, regulatory, and the big deals—account for approximately 15% of legal spend, they represent only about 1% of all matters. Translation: law’s one-percent handle the one-percent work. And all indications are they will continue to do so— at premium rates. The traditional partnership model will continue to work for those firms, but not for other undifferentiated large firms.

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The local firms bidding to build Trump's wall despite backlash risks

President Donald Trump is pushing ahead with his plans to construct an impenetrable border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Hundreds of companies across the country have expressed interest in helping him, lured at least in part by an estimated budget of more than $20 billion. But despite the potential windfall, only 11 New York–based firms have so far been attracted to the job.

They are contractors, architects and little-known small businesses from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, and their plans range from political statements to high-tech virtual defense barriers. Crain’s spoke to four of them. Others declined to comment, did not provide coherent proposal information or did not respond, perhaps sensing that, in New York at least, even mere talk of being part of Trump’s wall ambitions comes with risks of its own.

Local elected officials have denounced the wall, saying it runs counter to New York’s legacy as a city of immigrants. One lawmaker has even penned legislation to penalize companies that participate in the barrier’s creation. Yet despite the risk of alienating politicians—many of whom can influence which firms land municipal projects—the applicants from the city remain undeterred.

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“I see this as a business opportunity, and I’d be foolish to dismiss it for political reasons, whether I agree with it or not,” said Matthew Orent, chief operating officer at EIA, a tech-focused engineering and construction company in Long Island City that provides security for airports, seaports, transit authorities and energy companies.

But EIA isn’t in the wall-building business. Rather, the firm is looking to install a monitoring system that includes lasers, cameras and other detection devices that would be used alongside special software to automatically alert authorities of unauthorized activity on, under or above the wall. The network could also be installed in lieu of a physical barrier where the terrain is too rough to support giant slabs of concrete.

The company’s technology has been used by government agencies to prevent train accidents and intrusions at airports, Orent said, and needs only minor modifications to be used as part of the border wall. The principle behind the submission—and others from the five boroughs—is that on its own, a large concrete wall, no matter how robust, would ultimately prove insufficient to prevent illegal crossings.


OVER OR UNDER

In February U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the government agency charged with managing the wall undertaking, issued a request for information from vendors looking to participate. As of last week, 734 companies had signed up. In mid-March the agency issued a more specific request for proposals, which included the minimum-bid requirements that the reinforced concrete structure would need to be at least 18 feet high (though the department would prefer 30 feet) and run underground to a depth of at least 6 feet (see “Wall Paper”). Roughly 200 firms have so far expressed interest in submitting bids.

But the RFP detailed few other technical guidelines. Instead, it described a variety of potential breaches that the wall would need to thwart. The barrier must stymie climbers armed with ladders, grappling hooks or the type of handholds that can be affixed to the surface, often found in indoor-climbing gyms. The cement and other reinforcement materials would also need to delay for at least one hour would-be intruders armed with sledgehammers, pickaxes, car jacks and acetylene torches. Lastly, the wall should be aesthetically pleasing—on the U.S.-facing side.

After two rounds of culling during the next few months, a handful of firms will be selected to build a pair of prototypes: one 30-foot-long section to demonstrate a design’s full capabilities and a 10-foot-by-10-foot sample that officials will try to smash their way through in a test of resiliency.

But many of the companies applying for the gig have said that the government’s specifications will not be sufficient to effectively prevent illegal crossings. After all, whether the wall can stave off a jackhammer for one hour or one week is irrelevant if remote areas are not monitored. Plus, the barrier’s minimum 6-foot subterranean depth, intended to prevent tunneling, will likely prove an easy work-around. “A dog could dig that hole if you threw its bone down there,” said Dennis O’Leary, who runs DarkPulse Technologies, a Manhattan firm that uses its patented products to monitor the structural integrity of large pipelines as well as seismic activity in the rock walls of mine shafts.

O’Leary was born on the Upper East Side, where he now lives, and worked for the NYPD as a narcotics officer before getting into the security and safety business. He’s a firm believer that the border needs to be better fortified and is convinced that a wall on its own is not up to the task. His solution calls for outfitting the barrier with a network of fiber-optic cables that can be embedded in dirt, concrete or other surfaces to detect the slightest changes in the surrounding environment.

Because the RFP is open to companies offering high-tech solutions, DarkPulse is hoping that its product will catch the government’s eye. Its proposal includes laying a carpetlike network of cables along and within the barrier, allowing the feds to remotely pinpoint anyone attempting to breach the border. O’Leary estimates that the technology would cost around $88,700 per mile, or $110 million for the 1,250 miles of the 2,000-mile Southern border that is not currently barricaded.


GOOD FENCES

Customs and Border Protection concurrently kicked off a second RFP process in February, and this one caught the eye of Victoria Benatar, head of her eponymous architecture firm based on East 57th Street and a part-time faculty member at The New School. Last week she was preparing a proposal in advance of the April 4 submission deadline.

“I call it the anti-wall,” she said.

Benatar’s bid comes in response to the department’s request for “other” types of border protections, a category broad enough to entice designers who don’t necessarily agree with the concept of a partition. Her plan calls for constructing a series of “cultural centers” along the path of the border, giving Americans and Mexicans a place to come together to learn about each other’s countries. “I’d rather do something that helps grow and activate the border in a positive way,” she said.

Queens architect Vijay Duggal, likewise, does not support the wall concept, but he is nonetheless interested in addressing the politically charged controversy over who will pay for it. Although Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mexico will pick up the tab, late last month the White House asked Congress to allocate $1.5 billion to begin work.

Under Duggal’s plan, however, the wall would pay for itself. In his designs, the barrier is covered in solar panels and outfitted with wind turbines that would generate massive amounts of electricity.

“I think Mexico will come as an investment partner, not as a reimburser,” he said. “It really changes the dynamics of the debate.”

Duggal said his enhancements would add about $10 billion to the baseline price tag, which the Department of Homeland Security estimated in an internal memo to be $21.6 billion. But the electricity generated would be worth $1.2 billion annually, he said, enough to pay off the wall in 30 years, a typical repayment time frame for municipal bonds. In other words, the government could issue bonds to investors, and the revenue from electricity sales could be used to pay off the debt, alleviating the need for taxpayers or a foreign country to foot the bill. The wall could also provide free power to border towns that might otherwise resent living in the shadow of the imposing partition, Duggal said.


EXPERIENCE COUNTS

Regardless of their intentions, the New York bidders could face roadblocks set up hundreds of miles from the nearest crossing. Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced a bill that would allow the state to bar companies working on the wall from getting public contracts, a policy similar to what several other states are considering. Legislators hope the threat of retaliation will dissuade contractors across the country from working on the partition, effectively leading to a builders’ boycott.

“This legislation puts a mark in the sand of where New York values are,” said Rozic, a Democrat who represents immigrant communities in Queens, where residents have expressed alarm at the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and attempts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries.

The bill would put any company participating in the wall’s construction on a list that would be reviewed each year by the state’s commissioner of the Office of General Services, which oversees large infrastructure projects. The chances of the proposal becoming law are slim. Nonetheless, it could serve as a warning to businesses considering bidding: Elected officials could punish companies by holding up or meddling in projects that require their approval.

While some major national companies that operate in New York, such as Tutor Perini Corp., have submitted bids, the potential political backlash may explain why other big New York–area players, such as AECOM and Skanska USA Building, aren’t on the list. “These people are titans of the world for a reason,” said one construction industry insider. “They know how to sidestep a political land mine.”

Another obstacle for New York firms may be a lack of experience, regardless of how many complex infrastructure projects they may have under their belt. That’s because the RFP asks respondents to describe their experience with “high visibility and politically contentious design-build projects.”

Design-build, a bidding process that allows engineering and construction projects to be contracted together rather than separately, is used extensively throughout the rest of the country. But not in New York, where various construction groups have long prevented the framework’s wide implementation out of fear that streamlining the building process could mean less work. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding the policy in the state budget, but that won’t make up for years of lost opportunities.

Both EIA and DarkPulse have done some design-build projects, and Duggal is partnering with a Texas contractor in order to check that box. But for other local businesses, the obstacles may prove too big to surmount.

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Indian, Malaysian firms sign investment deals worth Rs 2.45 lakh crore

NEW DELHI: Visiting Malaysian PM Najib Razak extolled the virtues of the humble south Indian idli as Indian and Malaysian companies signed investment deals worth $36 billion or about Rs 2.45 lakh crore.

Addressing Indian business leaders here as he oversaw the signing of the business agreements, Najib said, “I want to make a confession to all of you that I am beginning to consider idli as my favourite breakfast item and you can see how much of India has crept into our Malaysian way of life.”

Najib has been courting Indian-origin population in his country as he heads into elections, so this is not surprising. The PM acknowledged Malaysia was home to the largest Indian population outside India. “Over 7% of our population are of Indian origin. Indian Malaysians play a key role in building Malaysia,” he added.

Most of the Indians in Malaysia are of Tamil origin, hence Najib’s meeting with Tamil superstar in Chennai last week held a special significance. “I met famous actor Rajinikanth and shared a selfie with him and I am beginning to like Tamil movies in addition to Bollywood,” he added.

Najib Razak and his wife are big fans of Shah Rukh Khan, who has even been knighted in Malaysia.

Najib’s business outreach comes after India and Malaysia took similar positions on the South China Sea issue. The move was surprising given Malaysia’s closeness to China. A joint statement committed the two sides to “respecting freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded lawful commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. They urged all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoid unilateral actions that raise tensions, and they emphasised that all parties should show utmost respect to the UNCLOS 1982, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.”

Najib is here with a 150-strong business delegation for whom Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are focus areas. Andhra will allow Malaysia to build a 250-acre “fourth generation technology park” in the new capital Amravati (which is being built by Singapore and Japan). Najib also travelled to Jaipur where Malaysian companies are bidding for road projects worth $1.2 billion. Malaysia has invested about $7 billion into India, though most of it has come via Mauritius.

Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device.

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GST rollout: Challenges and the road ahead for consumer firms


Archit Gupta,

Founder & CEO, ClearTax.com

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on March 27 introduced four bills on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the lower house of Parliament, paving the way for the launch of the landmark tax reform.

While the government is aggressive about rolling out the new tax structure by 1st July, the consumer firms are asking for a wider window to prepare themselves for GST. Some of the bigger giants like Nestle and HUL however, have reported that they started hiring indirect tax experts and IT consultants from last year itself to get ready in advance and avoid the glitches.

The question now is; how well prepared are the consumer firms in general for GST rollout?

Let’s understand how the new tax structure will impact this industry, the challenges posed by the change in tax laws, and how the firms can align their operations with GST rules to make the most efficient use of the resources under the new tax regime.

Challenge: Technological Readiness
The consumer goods sector includes companies that are involved in food production, packaged products, clothing, electronics etc. The B2C transactions in this sector run into millions on a per day basis which can be handled only by employing ERPs or business process management software that allow the enterprises to manage business. These software also automate many back office functions related to technology, services & human resources.

When GST goes live, the ERP solutions will need to be updated with the new tax law in terms of rate of taxes, type of tax, invoicing, return filing compliance etc.

The way out: Connect with your ERP/business software service provider and evaluate with the help of tax experts if the same system can be configured to adapt to the changes or an upgraded version is available. There are ERP solutions available in the market that come with 100 % configurable taxation module with which GST can be easily implemented in the ERP solution without any patches and service packs.

Challenge: Compliance burden
Companies will now have to upload three returns every month – by the 10th (details of supplies), 15th (details of purchases) and 20th of the month (details of taxes paid and input credit taken) after a sale happens.

Besides, by the next year end, companies would have to upload annual returns as well, totaling 37 returns each a year.

The compliance requirements for the consumer firms, especially service providers who earlier had to file only two returns – one every six months, is therefore going to increase drastically.

Challenge: Classification of goods and tax rates under GST

GST will consist of a four-tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. The tax rates for the FMCG industry under GST are likely to be similar to the existing tax incidence as indicated by the government, except for a few products consumed by the middle class like soaps and toothpaste that could be taxed at lower tax rates.

The way out: Goods will be given a HSN code, and services will be allotted a SAC code for easier tax computation. The same needs to be quoted in all tax invoices and tax rates will be determined accordingly. HSN mapping will become a crucial component of tax return filing in the coming days, so it is important that businesses opt for systems that can provide HSN mapping to avoid paying/collecting tax at incorrect rates.

Challenge: Supply Chain management function

Presently, the FMCG companies have warehouses in every state to avoid paying a 2 per cent central sales tax (CST) for inter-state sales of goods and the state-imposed entry charges, octroi, and other taxes. These warehouses often operate at below efficiency levels adding to overall operational cost.

The way out: Unlike CST, the integrated GST (IGST) for inter-state sales will be creditable and this will promote inter-state transactions. These firms will not have to set up multiple warehouses anymore; in fact they can consider consolidation of depots and shutting down some distribution centers.

It is high time the consumer firms reevaluate and realign their current operations in line with GST laws and get ready for the nation’s biggest tax reform since the end of the colonial era. With the correct measures, consumer firms should be able to get on board the GST wagon in no It is high time the consumer firms reevaluate and realign their current operations in line with GST laws and get ready for the nation’s biggest tax reform since the end of the colonial era. With the correct measures, consumer firms should be able to get on board the GST wagon in no time, and reap the benefits of a simplified centralised taxation system.

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These are the New York firms bidding to build Trump's wall

President Donald Trump is pushing ahead with his plans to construct an impenetrable border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Hundreds of companies across the country have expressed interest in helping him, lured at least in part by an estimated budget of more than $20 billion. But despite the potential windfall, only 11 New York–based firms have so far been attracted to the job.

They are contractors, architects and little-known small businesses from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, and their plans range from political statements to high-tech virtual defense barriers. Crain’s spoke to four of them. Others declined to comment, did not provide coherent proposal information or did not respond, perhaps sensing that, in New York at least, even mere talk of being part of Trump’s wall ambitions comes with risks of its own.

Local elected officials have denounced the wall, saying it runs counter to New York’s legacy as a city of immigrants. One lawmaker has even penned legislation to penalize companies that participate in the barrier’s creation. Yet despite the risk of alienating politicians—many of whom can influence which firms land municipal projects—the applicants from the city remain undeterred.

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“I see this as a business opportunity, and I’d be foolish to dismiss it for political reasons, whether I agree with it or not,” said Matthew Orent, chief operating officer at EIA, a tech-focused engineering and construction company in Long Island City that provides security for airports, seaports, transit authorities and energy companies.

But EIA isn’t in the wall-building business. Rather, the firm is looking to install a monitoring system that includes lasers, cameras and other detection devices that would be used alongside special software to automatically alert authorities of unauthorized activity on, under or above the wall. The network could also be installed in lieu of a physical barrier where the terrain is too rough to support giant slabs of concrete.

The company’s technology has been used by government agencies to prevent train accidents and intrusions at airports, Orent said, and needs only minor modifications to be used as part of the border wall. The principle behind the submission—and others from the five boroughs—is that on its own, a large concrete wall, no matter how robust, would ultimately prove insufficient to prevent illegal crossings.


OVER OR UNDER

In February U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the government agency charged with managing the wall undertaking, issued a request for information from vendors looking to participate. As of last week, 734 companies had signed up. In mid-March the agency issued a more specific request for proposals, which included the minimum-bid requirements that the reinforced concrete structure would need to be at least 18 feet high (though the department would prefer 30 feet) and run underground to a depth of at least 6 feet (see “Wall Paper”). Roughly 200 firms have so far expressed interest in submitting bids.

But the RFP detailed few other technical guidelines. Instead, it described a variety of potential breaches that the wall would need to thwart. The barrier must stymie climbers armed with ladders, grappling hooks or the type of handholds that can be affixed to the surface, often found in indoor-climbing gyms. The cement and other reinforcement materials would also need to delay for at least one hour would-be intruders armed with sledgehammers, pickaxes, car jacks and acetylene torches. Lastly, the wall should be aesthetically pleasing—on the U.S.-facing side.

After two rounds of culling during the next few months, a handful of firms will be selected to build a pair of prototypes: one 30-foot-long section to demonstrate a design’s full capabilities and a 10-foot-by-10-foot sample that officials will try to smash their way through in a test of resiliency.

But many of the companies applying for the gig have said that the government’s specifications will not be sufficient to effectively prevent illegal crossings. After all, whether the wall can stave off a jackhammer for one hour or one week is irrelevant if remote areas are not monitored. Plus, the barrier’s minimum 6-foot subterranean depth, intended to prevent tunneling, will likely prove an easy work-around. “A dog could dig that hole if you threw its bone down there,” said Dennis O’Leary, who runs DarkPulse Technologies, a Manhattan firm that uses its patented products to monitor the structural integrity of large pipelines as well as seismic activity in the rock walls of mine shafts.

O’Leary was born on the Upper East Side, where he now lives, and worked for the NYPD as a narcotics officer before getting into the security and safety business. He’s a firm believer that the border needs to be better fortified and is convinced that a wall on its own is not up to the task. His solution calls for outfitting the barrier with a network of fiber-optic cables that can be embedded in dirt, concrete or other surfaces to detect the slightest changes in the surrounding environment.

Because the RFP is open to companies offering high-tech solutions, DarkPulse is hoping that its product will catch the government’s eye. Its proposal includes laying a carpetlike network of cables along and within the barrier, allowing the feds to remotely pinpoint anyone attempting to breach the border. O’Leary estimates that the technology would cost around $88,700 per mile, or $110 million for the 1,250 miles of the 2,000-mile Southern border that is not currently barricaded.


GOOD FENCES

Customs and Border Protection concurrently kicked off a second RFP process in February, and this one caught the eye of Victoria Benatar, head of her eponymous architecture firm based on East 57th Street and a part-time faculty member at The New School. Last week she was preparing a proposal in advance of the April 4 submission deadline.

“I call it the anti-wall,” she said.

Benatar’s bid comes in response to the department’s request for “other” types of border protections, a category broad enough to entice designers who don’t necessarily agree with the concept of a partition. Her plan calls for constructing a series of “cultural centers” along the path of the border, giving Americans and Mexicans a place to come together to learn about each other’s countries. “I’d rather do something that helps grow and activate the border in a positive way,” she said.

Queens architect Vijay Duggal, likewise, does not support the wall concept, but he is nonetheless interested in addressing the politically charged controversy over who will pay for it. Although Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mexico will pick up the tab, late last month the White House asked Congress to allocate $1.5 billion to begin work.

Under Duggal’s plan, however, the wall would pay for itself. In his designs, the barrier is covered in solar panels and outfitted with wind turbines that would generate massive amounts of electricity.

“I think Mexico will come as an investment partner, not as a reimburser,” he said. “It really changes the dynamics of the debate.”

Duggal said his enhancements would add about $10 billion to the baseline price tag, which the Department of Homeland Security estimated in an internal memo to be $21.6 billion. But the electricity generated would be worth $1.2 billion annually, he said, enough to pay off the wall in 30 years, a typical repayment time frame for municipal bonds. In other words, the government could issue bonds to investors, and the revenue from electricity sales could be used to pay off the debt, alleviating the need for taxpayers or a foreign country to foot the bill. The wall could also provide free power to border towns that might otherwise resent living in the shadow of the imposing partition, Duggal said.


EXPERIENCE COUNTS

Regardless of their intentions, the New York bidders could face roadblocks set up hundreds of miles from the nearest crossing. Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced a bill that would allow the state to bar companies working on the wall from getting public contracts, a policy similar to what several other states are considering. Legislators hope the threat of retaliation will dissuade contractors across the country from working on the partition, effectively leading to a builders’ boycott.

“This legislation puts a mark in the sand of where New York values are,” said Rozic, a Democrat who represents immigrant communities in Queens, where residents have expressed alarm at the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants and attempts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries.

The bill would put any company participating in the wall’s construction on a list that would be reviewed each year by the state’s commissioner of the Office of General Services, which oversees large infrastructure projects. The chances of the proposal becoming law are slim. Nonetheless, it could serve as a warning to businesses considering bidding: Elected officials could punish companies by holding up or meddling in projects that require their approval.

While some major national companies that operate in New York, such as Tutor Perini Corp., have submitted bids, the potential political backlash may explain why other big New York–area players, such as AECOM and Skanska USA Building, aren’t on the list. “These people are titans of the world for a reason,” said one construction industry insider. “They know how to sidestep a political land mine.”

Another obstacle for New York firms may be a lack of experience, regardless of how many complex infrastructure projects they may have under their belt. That’s because the RFP asks respondents to describe their experience with “high visibility and politically contentious design-build projects.”

Design-build, a bidding process that allows engineering and construction projects to be contracted together rather than separately, is used extensively throughout the rest of the country. But not in New York, where various construction groups have long prevented the framework’s wide implementation out of fear that streamlining the building process could mean less work. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed expanding the policy in the state budget, but that won’t make up for years of lost opportunities.

Both EIA and DarkPulse have done some design-build projects, and Duggal is partnering with a Texas contractor in order to check that box. But for other local businesses, the obstacles may prove too big to surmount.

Go to Source