Tag Archive | "jobs"

Huge Bronx housing project clears hurdle, Crain’s NY Business

According to project developer Signature Urban Properties, a proposed $350 million mixed-use, affordable-housing development in the West Farms and Crotona Park East sections of the Bronx has made great progress.  Crain’s New York Business reports that by next year, ground is expected to be broken for the mix-used development targeted to create an estimated 412 jobs in the area.

 

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Gains in National Job Figures Don’t Mean Bronx Resurgence

Gains in National Job Figures Don’t Mean Bronx Resurgence

Bronx residents line up outside a Workforce 1 job center in February. (Zabaneh/Bronx Ink)
Bronx residents lined up outside a Workforce 1 job center in February. (Zabaneh/Bronx Ink)

Story by Shreeya Sinha, Lynsey Chutel and Sunil Joshi

While the national jobs figure for March indicated that the country is on the path to economic recovery, the employment picture in the Bronx was not so sanguine. Unemployment in the borough remains several points above the national average, and thousands of residents are still unable to find work.

For more coverage of Bronx job hunters, click here.

Above the bustling business hub of 149th Street and Third Avenue, rows of almost 50 people sat on Thursday in a cordoned-off waiting room in the Workforce 1 office, looking for help from the Bronx branch of the citywide employment agency.

This was Veronica Eaddy’s second time at the “one-stop employment center.” With a soft round face under thick waves, in a casual jeans and T-shirt, Eaddy, who asked that her full name not be used, doesn’t look her age at 42. But the string of jobs she has tried her hand at reveal a long struggle with unemployment. “I’ve been through many systems where a job has been promised and nothing happened,” Eaddy said.

Nationwide, there may be reason for optimism after the jobs report revealed that the depressed economy may be turning around. The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Friday that 162,000 jobs were added to the national economy, though the nationwide unemployment rate remained steady at 9.7 percent. But an increase in the national jobs number does not necessarily correlate to an increase in the number of jobs in the Bronx, said James Brown, an analyst with the New York Department of Labor. “There’s not a one-for-one increase,” he said. For Bronx job-seekers like Eaddy, economic struggles are still festering.

“You pretty much need a master’s degree to pick up the garbage,” said Eaddy, who feels that living in the Bronx has been a disadvantage for her. She’s spent the last seven years looking for a full-time job. Unemployment in the borough soared to 14 percent in January, well above the national average. Hunger and poverty are stark realities in the borough that is already struggling to compete with a higher-skilled workforce.

“That doesn’t bode well for the Bronx, which has a pretty high percentage of the local workforce that doesn’t have high levels of educational attainment,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, a research firm.

About half of Bronxites work outside the borough, Brown said. Many of these jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors are not only low-paying but largely dependent on consumer spending, which has sunk deeply in the recession. Analysts are hopeful that consumers will grudgingly start spending. Consumer spending picked up for the sixth month running in March.

“A lot of establishments are closing,’’ Eaddy said. “There aren’t many jobs that you could get if you come straight off school, like low-skilled jobs. And most of them can be pretty crap.”

Arthur Merlino, manager of Workforce 1, has worked in the labor market for 48 years, crisscrossing labor offices across the city’s five boroughs. After two years managing the Bronx branch, he admits that the borough poses a specific challenge. “This is a real serious time,” said Merlino, his eyes closing as he spoke. “I’d say, experientially it’s been a very difficult couple of years.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has made economic development and job creation a priority but critics have accused him of costing the Bronx thousands of jobs at a mall he opposed at the Kingsbridge Armory. Diaz opposed the project on the grounds that it would not provide Bronxites living wages. The City Council voted against the mall.

Franck Strongbow, associate director of the James Monroe Senior Center agreed with Diaz. After he spent eight months living “between a rock and a hard place,” Strongbow lived paycheck to paycheck when he was 25 years old trying to make ends meet. For him, a job is all about dignity. “What the borough president was saying was, “Let’s start with affordable living range because people should be paying an honest day’s labor.” According to the Center for Urban Future, 42 percent of the Bronx workforce is making less than $10 an hour.

The payroll company Automatic Data Processing said this week that U.S. employers cut 23,000 jobs in March, dampening expected forecasts ahead of Friday’s job report. Much of the nationwide growth in March was in temporary government jobs, particularly by the Census Bureau, which hired 48,000 temporary employees, according to the Department of Labor, including enough staff for four Census offices in the Bronx.

Elsewhere, there are signs of life in the borough’s jobs market. A coalition of construction workers in the Bronx said it has seen employment opportunities tick upward in March, with more activity on job sites. While the overall number of new building permits issued in the Bronx during the first three months of the year is down from 2009 — 44 to 18 — there were eight new building permits issued in the Bronx in March (up from four last year), according to the Department of Buildings. Richard Rodriguez, an administrator for United Hispanic Construction, said that his labor coalition was able to connect more workers with jobs in March, particularly with a new development on 163rd Street in Morrisania.

Despite the real-estate market’s more than two-year struggle, prices in Manhattan remain high, fueling new development in the outer boroughs, said Ken Margolies, director of organizing programs at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations. But while Margolies noted the signs of improvement, he cautioned against unbridled optimism. “The key thing about the news,” he said, “is that, by and large, the new jobs that are being created pay less than the ones that are being lost.”

The manufacturing sector is another industry that saw accelerated growth in March, according to the Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group. In February about 11,000 jobs were created, the largest increase in almost four years. Other sectors like health care have also done well, especially after President Obama’s health care plan passed. In March, 27,000 new health care jobs were added to the national economy, according to the Department of Labor.

That’s where Eaddy hopes to try her luck. She’s optimistic that the health care reform will revitalize jobs in this sector. “Since there was such a push going on in public health, I think that a lot of jobs are going to start that I want to get into while the getting in is good,” she said. Eaddy is trying to secure a voucher from the New York State Department of Labor that will cover a six-month-long Medical Billing and Coding course at Hostos Community College. Waving a manila folder on Thursday, with the college brochure inside, she checked that she had all her documentation. She had been waiting for move than an hour for her 4 p.m. appointment.

While she waits for a steady job, Eaddy decided to start her own business. “Splendidly Me,” a cosmetic business that she runs out of her East 180th Street apartment, supplements her income. When she is not teaching customers how to make coconut oil or twist their hair, Eaddy is pinning her long-term hopes on the health care industry.

“Now I have to come back,” she said, “but this time I’m doing something smart with a marketable skill so that I can have some leverage.”

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Seekers Hunt for Jobs in the Bronx

Seekers Hunt for Jobs in the Bronx

At the Morton Williams in Kingsbridge, people lined up to apply for an entry-level job. (Sam Fellman/Bronx Ink)

At the Morton Williams in Kingsbridge, people lined up to apply for an entry-level job. (Fellman/Bronx Ink)

Atavia Scott dreams of being a chef. Nicole Garcia wants to write about travel. And Sophia Pritchet wants to work at the retailer Forever 21. But each has had to put these dream jobs aside for now, and search more widely for that increasingly elusive commodity in the Bronx: the job.


Read more about umemployment in the Bronx here.


On a recent morning, they joined the line of some 40 job applicants at the Morton Williams in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, where the supermarket chain holds weekly interviews for openings at its 12 stores in the city. A manager laid out the application guidelines to the job seekers while a few shoppers strolled by.

“Again, you must know the name of the company and the address of the company” you use as a reference on the application form, explained Valerie Sloan, a vice president at the supermarket.

After explaining other aspects of the hiring process and twice stressing that those without proper identification should leave, Sloan, who declined any comment, returned to the small office perched in a corner above the store exit and called the first applicant.

Those near the front of the line sat down on the ledge running along the storefront window. The line snaked along the wall past the checkouts and the nine-foot-high stack of Malta India soda bottles until finally coming to an end half-way down aisle three just before the Stella D’Oro cookies. Since the supermarket chain holds their applications for six months, most of the job seekers were new.

Even as the national economy added 162,000 jobs nationally in March, according to the latest Department of Labor estimate, in the Bronx, where the unemployment rate is now at 14 percent, the employment market is becoming cutthroat, forcing experienced workers to apply for entry-level positions and others to vastly expand their job search.

Supermarket work wasn’t Atavia Scott’s first choice, but she lost her job as a health aide in January and has applied for over a dozen others without luck. In the last two weeks alone, Scott, who is 27 and lives in Soundview, has applied to more than 15 places—everything from health care to Rite Aid.

“Right now, I’ll work anywhere,” Scott said. “I’m not being a chooser.”

Scott said her interview with Sloan “went OK.” The manager told her that the supermarket was hiring five applicants to work as cashiers or in the deli, and that she’d get a call next week if they had a position for her. They were minimum wage jobs, Scott said, but at least there was a union and some benefits. Still, Scott wasn’t content to wait a week. Afterwards, she left to inquire at a home health agency in Mott Haven.

In many respects, Ben—who declined to give his last name because he feared it might hurt his prospects with the supermarket chain—has had a harder time. He said he had spent 30 years working in supermarkets, until he lost his job managing a food market in Queens in 2007. Ben, now 56, can’t find a job fitting his experience level.

“Some tell me I’m overqualified, some tell me I don’t have enough experience for the position that available,” he said. “All those fast food places—they’re all hiring. But it’s part time work at a minimum wage. They don’t require experience because they do on-the-job training.”

He’s applied to Macy’s, the Restaurant Depot, Sears. “I’ve gone so far as to apply for a job as a secretary,” he added.

Meanwhile, the pressure to stay solvent has been mounting, Ben said. Unable to afford his rent, he had to move his wife and two children to a shelter and now supports them on only $41 in food stamps and $1,720 in public assistance a month.

“It’s really hard to make ends meet when you don’t have much coming in each month,” he said. “I’m out here every day looking for a job. Even on Sundays.”

At the interview, Ben told Sloan that he was applying for a department head position at Morton Williams. Sloan said that no positions were available, but that she’d forward the application to her supervisor. Ben said the supermarket’s benefits were good—medical, dental, raises every six months—and hoped to hear back if a position opened up over the next few months.

Ana Pena, meanwhile, needed a job now. The 56-year-old Dominican immigrant has been out of work for nearly a year after she lost her job cleaning at a McDonald’s. Although she is living with a niece, she said that she wasn’t on Medicaid and needed to get a job as much for the pay as for the health insurance. She was attracted to Target for the employee benefits.

“I was trying to get a job with Target, but they never called me,” she said. “I wish I could get me a job making $8 an hour.”

Pena’s niece suggested she try Morton Williams. But Pena arrived at 9:30 am—15 minutes after they stopped accepting applications. Sloan told her to come back next week.

“It’s ok,” she said. “I’ll be here next time at 8 o’clock.”

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