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NYCHA trains residents for well-paying jobs in construction at Brooklyn’s City Tech

May 16, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Enrique Arrazola, left, demonstrates the use of a circular saw at an event on Monday showcasing NYCHA’s Resident Training Academy at City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn. The program helps housing project residents prepare for well-paying jobs in construction. To the right is instructor Richard Crabbe. Eagle photos by Mary Frost
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Not only does the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) house one in 14 New Yorkers, it also connects residents to life-transforming employment.

On Tuesday, NYCHA showcased its Resident Training Academy at The New York City College of Technology (City Tech), where housing project residents prepare for well-paying jobs in construction, maintenance and janitorial fields. The program is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation.

Reporters observed as participants built an entire room — complete with electrical, plumbing and carpentry — right inside the construction lab.

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“What’s the next step?” instructor Richard Crabbe, a tall man with a cheerful, booming voice, asked NYCHA resident Elliott Bryan, who was working on segments of pipe.

“You gotta clean the pipe and the elbow, right?” Bryan asked.

“Right,” Crabbe said. “You clean the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting.”

Other trainees advised Bryan to wear goggles before using the torch.

“Now he’s looking good,” Crabbe said. As the torch roared, Crabbe said, “Heat the fitting, not the pipe.”

“That’s it,” Bryan said, dunking the finished piece in a water bath.

After the demonstration, Crabbe told the Brooklyn Eagle, “Here we teach everything from the very basics of tools and their capabilities, framing, sheetrock, electrical work, plumbing, door and window installation, tile — really the whole nine yards. It’s a brief program, relatively, but we try to cover a lot of bases and give our students a good grounding in the basics of each one of these trades.”

Crabbe said that the vast majority of the participants have gotten construction work.

“Contractors have come to know what we do and how we do it, and appreciate the level of experience that they come away with,” he said.

The pay starts relatively modestly but usually “jumps incrementally” over a relatively short period of time, Crabbe said.

“They may get work at $16 an hour, something like that, but within six, nine months they’re making $20 or more … We had one guy who went into window installation, they started paying him at about $70 an hour. It really varies a lot and the luck of the draw sometimes. But the employment is there, and it pays well,” Crabbe said.

Bryan, who graduated the program two weeks ago, told the Eagle that he has earned nine certificates including OCEA 10, mold awareness, asbestos awareness, supported and unsupported scaffolding and blueprint reading. Now he’s preparing for the Local 3 exam for electricians.

“I definitely recommend this program,” he said. “I Google-searched all the certs and how much it would cost to obtain them on my own and it’s a couple grand. So I would recommend this for anyone.”

Shermira Busby-Forrester, director of the Workforce Development Center at City Tech told the Eagle, “We get them right into jobs, whether it’s [with] the affordable housing developers or local unions. Ultimately, our goal is to get them union membership.”

All possible through partners

Sideya Sherman, NYCHA executive VP of community engagement and partnerships, said the training academy is “a great example of the way NYCHA partners with philanthropy and quality providers like City Tech to make sure that residents are connected to opportunities.”

The program is part of NYCHA’s 10-year strategic plan, Next Generation NYCHA, she said.

“Since we launched in 2015 we’ve connected nearly 6,000 people to jobs, through the training academy but also through a host of providers that work with NYCHA. We’ve also connected over 13,000 residents to services and really transformed the way that we engage residents and community, and have brought in new partners around social services,” she said.

Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna. Photos by Mary FrostDeputy Borough President Diana Reyna, representing BP Eric Adams, said the program assists in the development of the borough, “making sure that we’re dealing with our chronically underemployed and unemployed population within our NYCHA developments, especially in Brooklyn, where we see this Brooklyn renaissance of economic development projects — and yet, there is a crunch to look for skilled labor.”

“We want to commend the work, and express how grateful we are to our philanthropy community,” Reyna said. “Only 5 percent of philanthropy dollars comes to Brooklyn. And so what Robin Hood is doing here is tremendous. It is lifting communities [and] making sure we’re attacking real-life problems.”


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