People of color in central New York aren’t getting a fair number of jobs in the construction industry, a local study finds. According to a new study by the Urban Jobs Task Force and the Legal Services of Central New York, there’s a major racial disparity in the New York construction industry despite people of color making up a quarter of the state population.
Researchers analyzed a group of construction projects taking place in New York state including the I-690 project, the Syracuse Hancock Airport Renovations, and the Lakeview Amphitheater in Onondaga.
Researchers found that 88% of the construction workers on these projects were white. Approximately 4% of workers were black or indigenous and only a few workers were Hispanic and Asian.
“Workforces are white in Central New York and we’ve seen it driving by them,” said Andrew Croom, an attorney from Legal Services of Central New York who worked on the study. “Was I ready for how white they were? No.”
The U.S. construction industry is usually a good place for American workers to earn money. Construction projects have public money in them paid for by tax dollars, beneficiaries of government grants, or tax breaks. In 2016 alone, the construction market was worth $1,162 billion and the composite materials market is expected to reach $38 billion by 2023.
The lack of inclusivity in the industry is concerning for many reasons, but especially because it keeps impoverished New Yorkers from finding good-paying jobs. Up to 16% of Rochesterians are living in extreme poverty and 15% of those in Monroe County live below the poverty line.
“You know, living in a city that’s 50% minority and 50% white, I expected a project like I-690 that’s two blocks from my house to be represented by the city where it is,” said Croom. “And it was so far from that, that yes, I found [these] results shocking.”
Urban Jobs President Deka Dancil says there are historical reasons why many people of color aren’t working in construction. The construction of Interstate 81 caused economic and racial segregation, urban renewal, and redlining.
“[This] made the networks of minorities only be with other poor minorities,” said Dancil. “And the networks of white people, for people who had the paying jobs, [were] exposed to the construction trade. I tell you … my whole time growing up in high school, I never even heard a thing about it.”
Dancil also points out that barriers such as non-paid training, lack of transportation, and lack of childcare prevent those who are already living in poverty from getting into construction programs that could lead to higher paying jobs.
Croom says that there are ways to ensure inclusivity in construction projects. LA Metro in Los Angeles is creating workforce agreements within their PLAs and have unions in the community working together.
New York state could see more collaboration with unions and have them more actively recruit in the city with targeted training, Croom says. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh recently launched Syracuse Build in an effort to train those in the city who are looking to work on the I-81 project.
However, Dancil says she isn’t as optimistic after seeing years of meetings on the topic of boosting inclusivity in the construction industry. The voices of local residents need to join those of policymakers, she says.
“I think what it comes down to [is] that there has to be a big table,” says Croom, “there has to be collective action to say ‘we’re all here. We all want the same thing.’ So, we have to work together to make those policies.”
February is Black History Month, and this year’s celebration is a special one for Rochester residents in particular. That’s because February 2019 is also the bicentennial anniversary of famed abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass, who later made his home in the Flower City. Not only is Douglass immortalized throughout Rochester in the form of statues for all to see throughout the year, but the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies will partner with the school’s Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation library facility to showcase Douglass’s work and life.
Of course, this is not the only way Rochesterians are celebrating. Mayor Lovely A. Warren and Rochester’s Black Heritage Committee are hosting a month-long events program to pay tribute to our country’s proud black heritage. The City Hall Link Gallery hosted a special event to kick off the month with flair. Live jazz music by the Art Beaty Band could be heard as guests appreciated the artwork of 25 local African American youth and adult artists. Attendees also had the chance to sample a variety of specialty African American foods. Considering that an estimated 65% of American consumers purchased specialty foods in 2017, it’s likely the crowd left the event satisfied on several levels. The event may have passed, but the artwork will remain on display through the middle of March.
City Hall isn’t the only place you can experience incredible works of art, either. The Memorial Art Gallery also hosted a Black History Month event that included live jazz performances, art activities for children, storytelling, and even a Frederick Douglass impersonator. During February break, kids can also receive free admission to the museum with the purchase of an adult ticket. Since studies have shown that seeing a beautiful painting can increase the blood flow to the “joy response” part of the brain by 10% (the same effect you experience when you look at a loved one), this can be a wonderful cultural experience for families.
If art isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate Black History Month in Rochester. There are several gospel concerts planned throughout the month, including one that will take place in the City Hall Atrium on February 27 during the lunch hour. The U of R’s Tournees Film Festival features several selections for Black History Month, as well. The celebrations put on by the city actually continues into March, with the 16th Annual Black Heritage Gala on March 9 and the Community and College Gospel Explosion on March 30. The Memorial Art Gallery will also host a multi-screen film and video installation called Lessons of the Hour, which is inspired in part by Frederick Douglass, from March through May. Residents can also do their part to support black-owned businesses during this month by checking out Embellish Boutique, Simply Simone Naturals, the Arnett Cafe, and more. Black-Owned Business Rochester is an excellent resource to learn about other establishments in the area. Should you feel like staying home and tuning into some local programming instead, WXXI will broadcast television and radio programs throughout the month that feature influential black men and women.
Clearly, there are countless ways to celebrate Black History Month in Rochester, thanks to the city’s diversity and commitment to cultural appreciation and understanding. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn more about the iconic figures that have shaped the black experience, both past and present.
Rochester’s arts and entertainment community is in the final stages of preparation for the 2016 First Niagara Fringe Festival , which takes place Thursday, September 15 to Saturday, September 24, all across Rochester. There will be more than 500 performances at more than 25 venues in and around the city. And 170 of those performances are totally free!
Imagine there was a way to do just a little extra work, but to make a huge difference doing it. Gloria Grattan, a local eight year old, has imagined just that and is hoping that you and the rest of Rochester can join in and lend a hand by growing just a little extra in your garden this summer (or gardening for the first time, if you don’t already!).
Temperatures are falling and the Fringe Fest is a distant memory. Well, technically it’s only a few days in the past, but given the rapid change in temperature it feels like a season ago.
This was the fourth year for the First Niagara Fringe Festival, but it was the first time I’d ever attended. I love Rochester and I love going downtown. But to be honest, I generally avoid events where there are lots of people or the potential for traffic congestion. Since I had a press pass, though, I decided to take full advantage of it, and for 10 days I immersed myself in the fun.
And I do mean fun. Here are a few of the highlights from my week at the Fringe…
Back in May, we noted National Nurses Week with a piece on Ida Jane Anderson, New York State’s first registered nurse. John Zicari, a reader from York, Maine, wrote to tell me that he’d been doing some genealogical research on his family from Rochester, and shared a family photo of his great aunt, Katherine Fitzgerald Osborn. She was a nurse at what John had been told was Rochester’s Park Avenue Hospital. There’s no date on the photo but, John says, “She died in 1925 so it is pretty early picture of the facility.”
I love genealogy and especially old photos. But I had to confess: I’d never heard a hospital on Park Ave. Cafes? Yes. Art galleries? Yes. A hospital? No.
But as my grandfather used to say, you learn something new every day…
Driving down East Main Street recently, I spotted the name “Martha Matilda Harper” engraved on a building near the old Beech Nut packaging plant. My interest was piqued, since the building at 1233 East Main Street currently houses Tire Trax sales and service. It turns out that the facility is the former laboratories for Martha Matilda Harper, Inc.
I can’t believe that I’d never heard of Martha Matilda Harper, but we can thank her for just about everything having to do with our modern salon experiences, as well as her groundbreaking business methods that pioneered modern retail franchising…
The First Niagara Fringe Festival is winding down, with just tonight and tomorrow left to check out some of the fun. I’ve been blogging daily on my personal blog about the festival, so hop over there to see everything I’ve been up to this week. But if you’re hitting the festival for the first time this weekend, here are a few things that you can still catch…
The First Niagara Fringe Festival opened this week, with over 500 shows happening at more than two dozen venues over ten days. But the heart of the Fringe is the Spiegelgarden, located at the corner of Main and Gibbs Streets, across from the Eastman Theater. There are shows, artwork, food and more, including the centerpiece Spiegeltent, which is home to the Cabinet of Wonders, Princess Wendy’s Late Night Tease Room, comedian Jamie Lissow, Silent Disco and Brown Bag Disco.
I confess I’ve never been to the Fringe, now in its fourth year, but after I did the Remote Rochester tour this week I just had to go downtown for opening night festivities at the Spiegelgarden. What amazing wonders await you! Here are a few of the things happening at One Fringe Place…
The opening of a medical marijuana dispensary in Kodak’s old Theater on the Ridge at Eastman Business Park has recently been in the news . Columbia Care will turn the leaves, stems and stalks of the cannabis plant into medicine for people with cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions. The facility is expected to be up and running this January…
I’ve got a bit of a dilemma reviewing the Remote Rochester event at this year’s First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. If I tell you too much, I might give away some of the surprises and ruin the experience. If I don’t tell you enough, you may not understand what it’s all about and miss what might be the most fascinating journey you’ll take through the streets of Rochester.
So I need to find a balance. I’ll begin with this question:
Do you trust me?
If there’s a cemetery tour happening in Rochester, you can be sure I’m there. For anyone interested in local history, there’s no better place to find unusual stories and bits of trivia, and I’m fascinated by the history buried all around us.
A few weeks ago, the City of Rochester hosted the annual Genesee River Romance weekend celebrating the Genesee River and its surrounding trail and gorge system. In 2014, I took full advantage of the weekend of events that include tours of the old subway and aqueducts, the Rundel Library, the Falls, and cemeteries. Somehow, I missed the adverts for this year’s event, so I only had time to catch one thing: the tour of Charlotte Cemetery…
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
its place as a link between the five different railroads and interurban trolley
lines that served the Rochester area. As the industrial landscape of Rochester
changed, and highways replaced the railroads, the Rochester subway gradually
became a relic of a bygone era. In 1956 the subway was abandoned and much of
its route was converted into Interstate 490 built to connect Rochester
with the New York State Thruway (I-90). Read more about the history of the Rochester Subway.
RochesterSubway.com exists to help spark
public dialogue around how we can better connect the neighborhoods of Rochester
NY, surrounding communities, and their cultural offerings. Rochesters
future is written in her past. Let's rediscover it.