April 24, 2014

East Harlem Group Works to Help Companies Buy and Hire Locally

Written by DNAinfo Staff

HARLEM — More than 60 East Harlem non-profits, businesses, religious and government agencies are working to make sure employers buy and hire locally and that residents are connected with available services.

The East Harlem Community Alliance has launched a new website that features the group’s first three campaigns: “Buy East Harlem,” “Hire East Harlem” and “Serve East Harlem.”

“We need to get everyone together because there is a void here and we can do a lot more about it,” said David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement Association, one of the effort’s organizers. “It makes sense for all the employers to get together as a group and hire locally, but no one does it.”

Nocenti used his own organization as an example. The social services agency is East Harlem’s third largest employer with 350 employees and serves more than 13,000 people each year.

“We buy food for the seniors, paint to paint the walls, chairs and we don’t think: ‘Can I buy this in East Harlem?'” he said. “If we get more people to buy in East Harlem then we can bring more economic development here.”

Phil Weinberg, CEO of the East Harlem job-training and employment agency STRIVE, is leading the Hire East Harlem initiative along with Mount Sinai Hospital.

East Harlem suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the city. Sixty percent of the households make less than $39,000 per year and 38 percent live below the poverty line.

“We brought many of the large employers from the community together and talked about local hiring. They said they would prefer to do more if they had a better idea of where to find qualified job candidates,” said Weinberg.

To help connect the dots, a new job board was created.

On Wednesday, it listed 61 jobs from several local groups, such as the New York Academy of Science which was looking for a rare books curator to Harlem RBI, a youth development agency that was seeking a family development coordinator and Boys & Girls Harbor which was seeking summer and after-school counselors.

STRIVE will also host a “talent center” where employees can meet with, screen and vet potential employees.

“We want to make a dent in the unemployment rate in our community and we can do that by engaging more employers to hire locally,” said Weinberg.

Another example of the need for coordination occurred after the March 12 explosion and building collapse that killed eight people and displaced dozens.

Individuals were collecting donations and money but there was confusion about where to bring things and whom to send money to. Nocenti said he was able to communicate with the just-formed alliance to create an inventory of what had been collected and to help send people to the right place.

The East Harlem Community Alliance began coming together in 2012 with the help of a $50,000 grant from the New York Community Trust. Nocenti believes the group’s first effort is an ambitious one and that’s why he thinks the three areas that members of the group have chosen to tackle first won’t be the last.

“Quality public schools or diabetes, what can we not handle together?” Nocenti said.

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