On March 5th the Far Rockaway Branch of the Queens library hosted meeting two of the Rockaway Boardwalk Project Informational Session. The session, sponsored by the NYC Parks, NYC Economic Development Corporation and Skanska, was to explore employment opportunities, job requirements, workforce development programs and the project overview.
The session had as its primary focus, to assure Rockaway residents that they would be part of the jobs available for the reconstruction of their Boardwalk. From the onset of the session, residents present were skeptical.
The information session covered the overall project plan and its implementation phases. It covered the types of jobs available including trade and non-trade jobs. Detail on jobs such as flag people, fencing, watch personnel and construction cleanup was discussed. However, job applications were solicited from workers of all skill sets as the project managers were sure more types of jobs would be required and available to complete the project.
Although the presentation was filled with all the right quotes about employment and information available about the project, those present were not convinced. The question and answer period opened up the floodgates to those concerns for jobs for the community.
“We have been continuously short changed”.
“We are sick and tired of people coming out here saying they are going to help us.”
“I want a job.”
“Show us some respect.”
These were some of the criticisms that hit the floor in the Q&A period.
It was revealed that contractors are obligated to have 30% of their newly hired workforce comprised of the local community. It is something that cannot be enforced. Participants also noted that a contractor can bring their entire workforce from another location and have no need for new hires, circumventing the rule.
Herlema Owens, Association of Women Construction Workers of America (AWCWA), spoke to methods that worked in the past for hiring from the community. “We have to learn what JFK [did with Delta] on how to get people to work,” she said.
Participants were encouraged to fill out job applications at the session. The sponsors were hoping to build a pool of eligible talent prior to the contractors coming on board. They would then turn over those applications to contractors.
Many of the participants there were also skeptical of that process. “Why do you have to pass me on to him to him to her…I want a job,” said Mr. Josey, a participant at the session hoping for job opportunities.
The skepticism was also evident from the lack of seats filled at the information session for such a crucial topic. In addition, most of those at the session only learned of the session hours earlier. The Queens Branch of the Library also cited issues in regard to the lateness of learning of the information session. That didn't give enough time for outreach to the community for responds and reaction.
To help facilitate future outreach, NYS Senator Sanders' office will work with the groups.
The project includes 4.7 miles of shoreline and includes complete demolition, reconstruction and outdoor furniture and lighting, if any. The first phase is set to begin April 2014 ending Memorial Day 2015.
The next open house is March 26 at P.S 43 160 Beach 29th Street from 7-9pm.