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Green Jobs for Brownfields

With two polluted waterways facing Superfund designation, scores of brownfields to remediate and countless buildings to abate, Brooklyn’s environmental workers will be busy in the coming years.

Williamsburg-based St Nicks Alliance, formerly named the St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, should continue to be at the center of these cleanup efforts as Brooklyn’s labor market of skilled workers look to meet the demand of development and green building in the borough.

On November 9, Environmental Protection Agency officials, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez (D-Williamsburg) and Councilmember-elect Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), visited St. Nicks Alliance’s Workforce Development center (790 Broadway) to celebrate its receipt of a $500,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant and the renovation of its Broadway Avenue space.

“The Obama administration is planning to create more green jobs and the EPA grants are targeted to do just that,” said EPA Divisional Director Walter Mugdan.“Green jobs are playing a vital role to improve the economy and brownfield grants will create jobs to not only clean up former brownfields but provide a home to new businesses.”

Congressmember Velazquez explained that the job training programs that St. Nicks continues to run and the recent AARA grant were in part the result of two very difficult votes she cast in Congress, authorizing a bailout for banks last fall and passing the multibillion dollar stimulus package,

“There is a role of the federal government to play in people’s lives,” said Velazquez.“St. Nicks Alliance is helping people match these skills with the demand out there.This is a new EPA that is more productive and more engaged with funding sources they need to do the job.”

The grant will continue job development work at St. Nicks Alliance, focusing on remediating brownfield sites.Formerly known as Williamsburg Works, the Workforce Development Center originally taught workers asbestos abatement skills, though there are a bevy of additional classes ranging from 7 to 12 weeks, including Environmental Remediation Technician Training, Commercial Driver License Training, Weatherization Training, and Photovoltaic Installation programs.

Since 2002, the Workforce Development center has trained 500 adults, 434 of whom are still employed.According to St. Nicks Executive Director Michael Rochford, who began his career removing asbestos from buildings in Brooklyn, 244 participants and 146 program graduates are pursuing environmental careers.

“We hope asbestos removal has been successful but we know there are new toxins out there and there will always be opportunities to remediate properties,” said Rochford.

Councilmember Diana Reyna highlighted one nearby Brownfield just south of the Workforce Development center, the Broadway Triangle, as an example of work that still needs to be done in Williamsburg.

“How wonderful would it be that the remediation of Pfizer be included in the rezoning of the Broadway Triangle,” said Reyna, who will participate in a public hearing at City Council regarding the rezoning plan in early December.

St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development is located on the 2nd Floor of 790 Broadway.For more information, call 718-302-2057 or visit www.stnicksnpc.org.

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