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NY Public Housing Residents Rally for Stimulus Funded Jobs

New America Media, News Report , Anthony Advincula Posted: Aug 31, 2009

NEW YORK, NY The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is getting more than $400 million in economic stimulus funds, but advocates and public housing residents are concerned that little of that money is providing jobs and training for residents, despite a federal mandate requiring it.

Thousands of these residents across the city remain jobless.

"We have a very large housing authority that is getting hot dollars every year, even without the stimulus package funds, but still there are about 30,000 public housing residents who are currently unemployed and actively looking for a job," said Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society.

Under Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, all public housing authorities and government agencies getting HUD funds are obligated to use those some of those federal funds for employment and training opportunities for low-income residents.

Nationwide, President Barack Obamas stimulus package is providing billions of dollars to public housing agencies, including $4 billion to be used for capital and management activities for public housing agencies and $1 billion to improve energy efficiency in aging projects. Advocates say this large, federal investment provides the perfect opportunity to help public housing residents find jobs in a time when jobs are particularly hard to find.

The NYCHA runs some 180,000 apartments in 340 developments across the city's five boroughs, housing more than 500,000 residents, "a population that matches some of the country's major cities, such as Boston and Cleveland," as described in a recent Community Service Society report.

The authority also employs an enormous workforce of nearly 12,000 people who service those buildings in a variety of jobs.

Although economic recession has continued to deepen, affecting all sectors of government and private companies, some community organizations and public housing supporters believe that the NYCHA has the funds to expand job opportunities, but has failed to implement the program mandated by Section 3.

"Even though they [NYCHA] have the money from the stimulus package to provide us jobs and trainings, they treat us like a lying doormat and ignore their responsibilities, said Charlene Nimmons, executive director of Public Housing Communities, Inc.

Nimmons, who is a resident of the Wyckoff Gardens public housing project in Brooklyn, joined other residents and advocates at a rally last Wednesday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to speak out for their fair share of the stimulus funding. She called on the housing authority to use stimulus dollars to hire residents and to contract with resident-owned and minority-owned small businesses.

But a spokesperson for NYCHA said that the agency has been proactively promoting trainings and job employment opportunities in five boroughs over recent years.

Weve been sending out fliers and holding job fairs. In October 2008, we reached out to public housing residents in the Bronx because there were job vacancies in retail stores at the Gateway Mall, said an NYCHA spokeswoman, who declined to give her name. We also did job fairs in Coney Island and partnered residents with Coney Island Circus and Festival By The Sea for employment.

The Community Service Society's Bach said the NYCHA has made some efforts, but not enough. The housing authority has done a few things about job placement for residents, but it is a marginal initiative, Bach said. Over time, they have only placed a small number of residents to join the workforce.

To date, only about 200 residents have found a job through the NYCHA employment program, Bach continued. I think there has been some recognition, nationally, that Section 3 has not been efficiently enforced. We need to figure out how to build the capacity to connect with job opportunities.

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