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Locals Push for Promised Jobs at George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal

By Carolina Pichardo | August 18, 2017 4:35pm
 Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez addresses residents Wednesday afternoon during a protest held outside the GWB Bus Terminal in Washington Heights.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez addresses residents Wednesday afternoon during a protest held outside the GWB Bus Terminal in Washington Heights.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Port Authority and a developer of the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal have broken their promise to give more jobs to locals, politicians say.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who organized a rally Wednesday with other elected officials, said officials have been meeting with the Port Authority and developer for years, and that when the project started to take place, there was an agreement that most of the jobs at the terminal would be for locals.

But after the terminal opened in May to much fanfare after several delays and “construction challenges” forced its multimillion-dollar overhaul to run two years behind schedule, the Port Authority and the developer have not held retailers like Marshalls accountable for holding hiring events outside of the community, organizers said.

“When big establishments like this happens — in any part of the city — the first ones that are notified and approached for job opportunities are the local residents. And they don’t have any excuses for not starting to hire locals,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s what we’re demanding today — for Port Authority, Marshalls and the developers to correct any mistakes they have made.”

“We have a 20 percent unemployment rate,” said local community organizer Martin Collins. “And with 700 jobs in a built-out, fully-occupied port, the [Port] Authority should be stepping up and assuring that those jobs and the access to those jobs are available to the community.”

The revamp of the half-century-old space involved creating 120,000 square feet of retail space, according to the George Washington Bridge Redevelopment Venture LLC. — a private development company overseeing the project with the Port Authority.

Rodriguez said the redevelopment team also promised mom-and-pop shops, who signed a lease, to help them build and provide a community space.

The stakeholders of the project had previously been slammed in 2014, when the project was in the designing phases before the community board, for offering a "closet"-size community space in the new building and eliminating a second-floor space that was used for job fairs and community functions.  

The George Washington Bridge Redevelopment Venture LLC or Port Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Marshalls said it has held four hiring events in total in Harlem, Fordham and Washington Heights. The company said it's using a third-party hiring organization to staff the new store and has promoted the job fairs “widely within Harlem and Washington Heights.”

“We have been in communication with community officials regarding our hiring efforts throughout this process and are committed to being a good neighbor here in Washington Heights,” a spokeswoman said, adding the company is “very pleased with the number of pre-screened applicants from Washington Heights who are scheduled to attend these events.”

But some locals don't feel those efforts are enough.

“It looks like what they want to do here is not give employment to the community. They just want to come and leave us in limbo,” said longtime resident Richard Ricart in Spanish. “It’s an advantage for them to hire within the community, because someone locally will know what the community really wants.”