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The Northeast Bronx is on the move

9/26/2013, 3:04 p.m.

When I think of the economic state of the Northeast Bronx and where it was just a few years ago as a result of the collapse of the housing market and the Great Recession of 2007, the term “revitalization” immediately comes to mind.

Although the Bronx’s net worth had plunged with the highest rate of unemployment in the state and the lowest high school graduation rate in the state, the spirit of the Bronx has been renewed and is on the edge of an economic business boom.

In my district, for example, there is a new, $300 million indoor shopping mall being constructed in Co-Op City. This new mall created more than 2,000 construction jobs and is expected to bring in some 1,700 retail positions.

And just right outside my office, on Gun Hill Road, a new supermarket is being built.

These are just two examples of new businesses coming in; more needs to be done. As I travel through my council district, talking to people on the street, I meet with people who have been job hunting for years. Some are underpaid and working part-time jobs to make a full-time income. There are seniors who are afraid to retire and enjoy their golden years because they can’t afford to retire. I’ve talked to generations of families who found it necessary to live together to make the mortgage or rent payments—they are called the invisible homeless. The plight of these individuals are not reflected in official records counting the unemployment rate or homeless rate.

On the other side of the coin are the business owners who say they are finding it hard to fill positions because of an unskilled workforce. Many people are applying for jobs in the service, retail, marketing and professional sectors but lack basic customer service skills and have little to no knowledge of how to use computers or software.

The skilled workers shortage presents a huge void in our workforce that can only be addressed with education and career initiatives. I‘m supporting a number of initiatives in my community that include

Partnering with labor unions for apprenticeships.

Working with small businesses to mentor women and minorities who want to start businesses of their own.

Teaming with organizations that want to help young men and women graduate from high school.

Advocating and funding programs for early childhood and elementary school development.

Supporting entities that want to provide after-school programs for the youth and cultural programs for the community.

Working with developers to construct housing that is affordable for all New Yorkers.

Using my own initiative, “Operation Cleaner Streets,” in which community residents are organized for a district-wide day of cleanup on the 12th of every month.

The lesson here is that education and training are essential in order to grow and stabilize our community. Unless everyone has a true commitment to developing one’s self, we all will fall.

The message of the human component of why we are where we are today is that first, we as a community need to take ownership and teach a system of family values and brotherly and sisterly love and set standards of quality work ethics. If we can unite around these valuables, we can organize and develop growth within ourselves that will prevent us from always depending on a system that dictates our future.