District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher and a slew of local allies announced a new initiative to bring lucrative local jobs to the Chelsea-Elliot Houses & the Fulton Houses on Monday, September 18, which they are calling the West Side Work Coalition.
Bottcher clarified that the newly formed coalition will operate in partnership with Hudson Guild, Greenwich House, and the New York City Employment and Training Coalition. He also noted that it could be used in other impoverished areas of the district: “We’re beginning this effort at NYCHA Elliott-Chelsea and NYCHA Fulton Houses.” Flyers will also be posted around Hudson Guild & the NYCHA buildings, complete with a link to access the form that can connect residents with the program.
According to the Community Service Society, 20 percent of NYCHA residents are unemployed or out of the labor force. Black and Latino men are more likely to be out of work than other demographic groups.
U.S. Congress Member Jerrold Nadler, who represents a vast swath of Manhattan, notably endorsed the plan: “Not only will this model of workforce development provide job seekers with the skills and opportunities needed for them to be gainfully employed, but it will also enrich New York City’s economy.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal perhaps best captured the theory behind the project when he stepped up to the mic. He called his district, which he told his audience stretches from Christopher St. to 103rd St., “one of the wealthiest districts in New York State.” He attributed this partly to Fortune 500 companies, more specifically ones such as “Pfizer, BlackRock, Time Warner, PMB Banks, Wells Fargo, Facebook, and KKR.”
Hoylman-Sigal called this “an embarrassment of riches” that could be made a “virtuous circle” that benefits the local community via resume and job training...and ostensibly by hiring NYSCHA residents.
“We have, right here within our own neighborhood, poverty,” noted Bottcher. “Something that I think is a source of shame is that for so long, we’ve had this stark inequality. We’ve looked the other way.” Rattling off another list of companies and organizations–including Google and their prominent tourist-favorite investment, Chelsea Market–he said that they would have to be “the drivers” of his vision.
Of course, some of these job training advocates will also come from the union, nonprofit, and academic spheres. Greg Morris, the head of the aforementioned New York City Employment & Training Coalition (which is an umbrella organization representing all of the above), appeared considerably excited during his allotted speaking time.
Indicating that the West Side Work Coalition dovetailed neatly with the mission of his coalition, which is “helping job seekers regardless of their starting point,” Morris claimed that New York City has “a history of employment networks like this working to improve the lives of local community members.”
The chair of Community Board 4, Jeffrey LeFrancois, also cheered on the initiative. He approvingly cited Bottcher referring to the plan as a form of human “infrastructure,” and said that it would “set something up that is real, that would put a jobs pipeline into effect with skills and training,” much akin to a water pipeline or an electrical network. While noting that his “day job” was being the executive director of the Meatpacking District Management Association, LeFrancois was in essence giving the coalition the imprimatur of some the most grassroots-minded participants in NYC government.
As for the residents of public housing themselves? Fulton Houses Tenant Association president Miguel Acevedo, for one, was hopeful. “We see many outsiders that don’t live in our community going to businesses to go to work, when we live right across the street from Google and Hudson Yards. We should be the first ones that they reach out to to say, ‘Hey, we can set up a job training program,’” he contended.