Building This School Is The Point

Paul Bass PhotoSome 50 New Haven adults will go to school to learn new trades—by building the school themselves.

They’ll be gut-rehabbing an abandoned shell of a former auto repair shop at 316 Dixwell Ave. into the new home for city government’s Construction Workforce Initiative.

That’s the program, run by the Commission on Equal Opportunities’ Nichole Jefferson (pictured), aimed at helping train out-of-work adults for construction-related jobs currently booming in New Haven but going mostly to suburbanites.

City government’s Livable City Initiative foreclosed on the abandoned former home of Hank’s Custom Automotive (run by local jazz sax player Hank Bolden) and turned it over to the training program, which currently holds classes at 200 Orange St.

The classes will move to the new Dixwell Avenue building (to be renamed the Career Development School) once a crew of aspiring tradesmen renovates it from scratch.

In the meantime, the renovation job itself will serve as hands-on classes for the trainees. They’ll be renovating it as part of their training, keeping the city’s costs down in the process.

Officials held a festive groundbreaking at the property Wednesday.

They were joined by Hillhouse High School’s marching band as well as by the trainees themselves, including Frank Green (pictured above).

Green, who grew up in the Hill, is studying to be a plumber. He worked as a “casual employee” (translation: no job security or benefits) at Yale recently, doing clerical work. Then he got laid off. He said he hopes he can find more secure work as a plumber.

The school is being named after three people: Hildred Pearson, a longtime city staffer who helped shepherd this project to fruition until her recent passing; state operating engineers union leader Ben Cozzi; and Jimmy Miller, a local housing authority official who also developed the Dixwell project. (He’s pictured above with the housing authority’s Sheila Bell.)

Miller fulfilled the election-season portion of the event during remarks to about 70 people gathered under a white tent.

He noted that prior to coming to New Haven six years ago, he had worked for three New York mayors, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, and Rudolph Giuliani. Now he works for New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, he noted. DeStefano is running for a record 10th two-term in next Tuesday’s election.

“This is the best, brightest mayor I’ve ever worked for,” Miller remarked.

“Job security!” a joking audience member called out.

“I don’t need job security,” Miller responded. “I’ll be 60 in a month or two. I have a pension. I have three pensions.”

DeStefano addressed the crowd, too.

“Most families want to have a chance at ... what?” he asked.

“A job!” came the response. It was the right response.

DeStefano noted all the construction going on around town, from the new Gateway Community College campus downtown to the $1.5 billion citywide school rebuilding campaign.

“We want to have a high number of people from New Haven” working on those projects, he continued. “So they can pay me, what?”

“Taxes!” came the laughter-filled response. Again, the right response.

“Say that again,” implored DeStefano. The crowd complied.

Organizers put charts up around the tent showing the number of people hired for various construction projects. Examples: 560 people worked on building the new Metropolitan Business Academy; 184 of them were “minorities,” 110 New Haven dwellers, 32 women. The rebuilt Davis School put 548 people to work, 189 of them black or Hispanic, 103 New Haveners, 30 female. City government critic Alan Felder (pictured) stood outside the gathering with signs depicting his take on those numbers.

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posted by: Curious on November 3, 2011  9:21am

I find it very interesting that Mayor DeStefano says “So they can pay ME…(taxes)”, instead of “pay US” or “pay New Haven”.

I guess John sees those taxes as going right into his pocket.

posted by: CMP on November 3, 2011  12:02pm

Most of our “education” conversations surround traditional institutions with a traditional curriculum.  This program offers a bit of change to the conversation.  It meets the needs of community members (students) struggling in ever-changing ecomony through re-training - giving them hope for employment.

This a is great example of how government works.  I applaud the Mayor and his team for their creative approach.  Truly a win-win.  Students will have a hands-on learning experience while the City trims renovation expenses.

Nice job by all involved.

This program is an example of New Haven doing it right and should be celebrated.

posted by: former HANH employee on November 4, 2011  11:46am

Jimmy, thanks for giving us another example of why people dislike government employees.

What does Nicole Jefferson actually do?  Have you ever read one of her reports?

How much HANH money went into this project? How many HANH residents will get to participate?

Another old news used to campaign for the mayor by Karen & HANH on HANH time

posted by: LOL on November 4, 2011  7:17pm

Hey, CMP:  Come to some of the city’s toughest schools that are filled with extremely needy kids.  Check out the lack of staff and tremendously crowded classes, and shortage of supplies (some schools don’t even have all their Math in Focus materials yet, but hey, it’s “only” November).  Just another example of New Haven “doing it right”, eh?

posted by: Alan Felder on November 4, 2011  7:54pm

The City of New Haven is one of the most economically and educationally segregated city in America. The CEO for Blacks is a well without water, selling Black people false hope. 1.5 billion dollars in school for the Trades Unions and now at the end of the school construction The City of New Haven is going to integrate. The PLA “Project Labor Agreement” is a perfect racially segregated “Jim Crow” policy that was and is supported by Black alder-persons and policy makers, suffering from “Uncle Tom Syndrome”; may God help us all.