Hempstead’s Black residents want construction company to know that ‘Black Jobs Matter’

Stephon Johnson | 7/2/2020, midnight
A construction company denied Hempstead’s Black residents jobs.
Construction workers in Hempstead, NY Antonio Kelly photo

A construction company denied Hempstead’s Black residents jobs.

Last Thursday, June 25, multiple community organizations in the Town of Hempstead rallied at a construction site run by Park East Construction Corp. to protest the company’s hiring practices. One of the major issues: not hiring locals for jobs.

These organizations, under the Black Jobs Matter banner, were protesting Park East Construction Corp. and claiming the company has allegedly avoided hiring local minority workers and refused to hire anyone from the local Black community in particular.

Park East’s alleged hiring process angered the city’s Black community because many of the $46 million put aside for its construction project comes from local taxes.

Elder Reginald Benjamin, founder of Black Jobs Matter and executive director for the ABBA Leadership Center, said the community was hoodwinked by the construction company.

“Black Job Matters was organized because outside developers come into our communities with promises to hire local contractors and local workers, but inevitably fail to keep their promises forcing Black and minority workers to watch on the sideline as others benefit instead,” said Benjamin. “We are left out of the rewards of rebuilding our own communities.”

According to New York State statistics, as of May 2020, Hempstead/Long Beach’s unemployment rate was 12.5%. The lack of minority hiring by East Park could have raised eyebrows with local government.

Requests for comment from local elected officials were ignored.

“We are tired of being shutout of the redevelopment of our own communities, we are tired of the lies and false ‘Good Faith’ rhetoric,” said contractor, Curtis Lowery. “We demand to participate in the economic development of our community. Why should outsiders come into Black and Brown communities and rob us of jobs and contracts that rightfully should be given to the people who live in that community? We can’t breathe with a knee on our livelihood.”

Park East Construction Corp. is based on Huntington, Long Island and, according to its website, specializes in managing “extensive construction management experience in the public-sector arena covering K-12 education, public libraries, fire districts along with a current private project focus on storage building and residential apartment complexes.”

Attempts to contact Park East were unsuccessful.

ABBA Leadership Council is the official consultant for “the Village of Hempstead Jobs and Small Business Referral Center which identify and pre-screen men and women for construction and related work on the highly anticipated redevelopment of Downtown Hempstead.” The organization has helped many local residents obtain entry-level construction jobs.

With the lack of success and communication with Park East, Black construction workers were left out to dry. However, the desire for employment during the COVID-19 pandemic remains.

“I am willing to work. I want to work and take pride in my work,” said Rashad Cooper. “But we are dying economically because outsiders are taking the jobs that should be ours. They just don’t care about our community. Imagine if it were the other way around and we were taking their jobs?”