$2 Million to NYC Green Jobs
The City is in for a makeover with the help of a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The money will go towards creating new jobs in horticulture and forestry and lending some extra hands to the city’s MillionTreesNYC project.
The announcement was made on Wednesday at the edge of the Bronx River at Hunts Point by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. They were joined by U.S. Representative Jose Serrano, Forest Service chief Abigail Kimball, and other elected officials.
The money will be used to employ the graduates of the MillionTreesNYC training program, whose inaugural class was attending the event. The participants, most of whom in their mid-20s, were previously not enrolled in school and were not on any career path. The program will provide 20 full-time jobs and pay them $12 an hour for the next two years as they beautify the city and help New York move towards a greener landscape.
“Everybody talks about green jobs in this country, but we’re actually trying to create them. These are some,” Bloomberg said.
According to Bloomberg, one of their first tasks will be to reforest the approximately two-acre empty lot next to the Bronx River where the announcement was made. The land is owned by the Parks Department.
“They’re hard work is going to continue opening up the Bronx River waterfront,” Bloomberg said. “The future of MillionTrees is about to get even brighter thanks to a big boost from our federal government.”
The MillionTreesNYC program was started in October 2007. It is a 10-year initiative to plant and care for more than 1 million trees throughout New York’s five boroughs. Thus far, more than 174,000 trees have been planted through the program.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, trees bring several benefits to the city. They help communities come closer together by creating parks and gardens, protect the environment, and improve the overall health of local residents.
“The reality in America today is that there’s a lot of difficulty, a lot of stress, but today’s a positive day. When we plant these trees and begin this process, I think we renew our faith and confidence in the future,” he said.
“This $2 million will allow an opportunity for 50 of these young men and women to be involved in this program over the course of the next two years.”
Following their two-year employment though the program, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the workers will have the opportunity to move on to other horticulture and park-related jobs, including jobs in the NYC Parks Department. Vilsack added that they may also be eligible for positions in the Forest Service.
For the South Bronx community, such work is needed. U.S. Representative Jose Serrano said that a few years back, volunteer groups took this type of work on their own shoulders. “Folks that are in the audience decided that the South Bronx, the Hunts Point area wasn’t being treated fairly,” he said.
They started a local environmental movement and focused their first efforts on cleaning the Bronx River. “I remember that first Saturday when we took everything [out of the river,] including half a jeep,” Serrano said.
Following their efforts, herring were reintroduced to the river a couple years ago and just recently, a beaver has returned to the river for the first time in 200 years. “It turns out New York City was a beaver pelt colony and that was the beginnings of New York City. Now a beaver comes back and these fine folks decided to name the beaver Jose,” he said.
The beaver was named Jose in honor of Serrano.
“This means that the South Bronx is making a full comeback and what happens today is then an indication of the federal government, with the City, joining hands and saying we plant trees, we plant life.”
By Joshua Philipp