Where Are The Jobs? Down The Block

Thomas MacMillan PhotoOne day after local activists called for local and minority hiring at the Winchester factory redevelopment project, the city announced the opening of an office to do just that—down the block from the factory.

Contractors and city officials gathered at 4 Science Park on Winchester Avenue Thursday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new offices of the New Haven Regional Contractors Alliance. The 11-year-old city-supported agency works to connect local small contractors with jobs. It also provides training to contractors looking to diversify their skills.

The organization’s new offices are less than a block up Winchester Avenue from the shuttered Winchester Arms factory, which is slated for a multi-million dollar redevelopment project to turn it into a mixed-use complex of apartments, offices, and retail space. Plans for that project were up for approval by the City Plan Commission on Wednesday night. At that meeting, neighborhood leaders decried a lack of community participation in the project’s planning. They also called on developers to ensure that locals and African-Americans be hired for construction and permanent jobs at the new project.

Several of those voices of opposition—including the Rev. Boise Kimber—showed up on Thursday afternoon to attend the celebration of the Contractors Alliance’s new office. One, contractor and neighbor Frank Jackson (at left in top photo with David Silverstone), called the opening of the office another “piece of the puzzle” that could create good employment connections between the Winchester project and the surrounding community.

“We’re celebrating the fact that we’re here in the middle of activities,” said Walter Esdaile, project manager at the Contractors Alliance. He stood with the mayor as he addressed the contractors and supporters packed into the two-room office.

Mayor John DeStefano said the Contractors Alliance’s new location ties it into ongoing development at Science Park and the Winchester Factory. Its addition creates a “nice cluster” in the area, he said. “We’re bringing things together in this neighborhood, where the action is going on.”

Asked for his response to the new office, Rev. Kimber declined to comment. “My wife told me not to talk to the press,” he said.

Another critic from the previous night’s City Plan Commission meeting shared his thoughts. Jackson, the local contractor, said developers have been “doing a pretty good job trying to connect businesses in Science Park with the community. ... This is another starting point.”

“It’s all about putting the pieces together,” he said. “This could work.”

David Silverstone, head of the board at the Science Park Development Corporation, said he would like the Contractors Alliance to be a source for workers on the Winchester project. “We’re hoping we can use the Contractors Alliance to hire high-quality subcontractors,” he said. That could include work in sheetrocking, plumbing, painting, framing, and electrical work, he said.

It’s important that the new office is now so close, Silverstone said. “It’s an easy point of entry.”

Previously, the Contractors Alliance had been operating out of a cubicle in a shared office on the Boulevard, said Esdaile (pictured). When it ran out of room there, city Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy helped the agency to find a new space in Science Park. Now the organization has more room for training, Esdaile said. The agency runs training programs on how to run jobs, budgeting and pricing jobs, and other contractor business skills. The alliance recently completed a training on green demolition.

The agency works with contractors that do under $3 million in sales annually, most of whom happen to be minority contractors, Esdaile said.

Lil Snyder, who oversees the alliance for the city’s department of economic development, said the new office is well-positioned not only because it’s in Science Park, but because it’s just down the hall from a literacy center, which offers training and job preparation.

Yesterday, when an ex-offender walked into the literacy center looking for training, workers there were able to help him out and then send him next door to the Contractors Alliance for more assistance, Snyder said.

Snyder said the offices will soon have computers set up for contractors to browse projects that are open for bidding.

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posted by: Funky Chicken on July 23, 2010  9:10am

Hold on a sec - have I fallen down the rabbit hole? This is surreal! One day you are fighting tooth and nail with the developer and the next you are all hugs and kisses?  ...

posted by: FacChec on July 23, 2010  11:03am

The fac that One day after local activists called for local and minority hiring at the Winchester factory redevelopment project, the city announced the opening of a Contractors Alliance, has no bearing on the long standing grievances of this community about building in New Hallville’s twenty year old revitalization planned area which now sits dormant in the office of city planning.
Less than 18 months ago Winstandly and Silverstone cohort-ed with the city plan commission to ignore the communities concerns about blighted housing in the New Hallville tract. At that time they promised jobs in the construction of the parking garage and the Yale dormitory water chiller plant to be attached to the garage.

The garage is now built, the water chiller is dormant, they are seeking tenants for the additional spaces, however, the construction was contracted to an out of state firm and little or no jobs were provided to local neighborhood residents. Not even through the city’s CEO department.

Where were the local elected officials while the construction was going on, not to be found. Gary winfield made appearances at the commission hearings, but then, as now..(Wed.) has made only token comments followed by posting to the NHI which seem to apologize for taking a stance.

In as much as, Alders Moorehead, Jones, Edwards and Blango are concerned, all representing Dixwell and New Hallville - all were MIA’s - despite the fact that local-in kind, state and federal tax credits will be involved in this project.

Fundamentally, as posters observed through their earlier comments on this sister story, it would seem quite appropriate to support a project which pro ports to up grade a depressed area and provided taxes for the city. In reality, the history of the Winchester rebuilding saga suggested the just the opposite, going back to the first development of the Science park project. 
The FACs to this history are displayed every day. Who performed the work and who is benefiting from the results, and what taxes are being collected on a non- profit.

It is easy to discern that it is NOT the Neighborhood.

In this sister story, it would appear the city and Silverstone had long planned on providing construction jobs, and only decided today to release the information to damping critics charges about past and present housing/job development failures.

Which raises the question of way the city would even introduce a construction alliance in relation to this project, when the Mayor and Yale are currently taking credit for increasing minority jobs for local residents through the city’s CEO training program at projects such as 360 state st, Smillow hospital and Yale university sites around the Broadway area??

Answer… because they can, with no opposition from the Alders or representative mentioned here.

posted by: ehop on July 23, 2010  5:36pm

Good points FacChec.

I think the underlying problem (in my opinion) here needs some reiteration. The neighborhood has not been properly included in its own area’s redevelopment plans. Just because the Contractors’ Alliance will now be neighbors to the Winchester development site does not mean the community will benefit from the development. What should go in this space should be a project that includes services, jobs, housing, etc. for the demographic of people living in the immediate area first and foremost. Diversity in planning is also important, so a mixed-use plan would be best for the health of the community.  Providing space for people outside of the typical demographic of the community should be included, but should not be the main focus.