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A New PATH to Local, Green Jobs

2012 February 27

Job candidate Evonna being interviewed by WNYC reporter on the first day of candidate training. (EPA photo)

By David Kluesner

After about 15 minutes on a PATH train from the city to Newark, you can’t help but notice remnants of New York and North Jersey’s industrial past. Abandoned factories and scarred tracts of land amid the marshlands and mounds of earth resembling old landfills. After crossing the Hackensack River, off to the left, you see the old Diamond Alkali Superfund site in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood.  Perched along the Passaic River, the site is a mere patch of gravel covered property with potted Christmas trees. It’s innocent looking enough, but it’s considered to be one of the worst dioxin sites in the country. After passing the site, on the approach to Newark Penn Station, you can’t help but notice the New York Red Bulls new “futbol” stadium. It’s the new, emerging in the shadows of the old. On February 13 this PATH took me to the offices of the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark to visit the 15 candidates that are going through the Passaic River Superfund Jobs training program, a national EPA jobs training initiative that is new to our Region.  Fifteen candidates were selected from more than 500 applicants.  Twelve of them who graduate on March 1 will get jobs working on the cleanup of river sediment contaminated by the site decades ago.   

Job candidates were tested on physical fitness on tryouts day. (EPA photo)

These 15 bright, eager unemployed or under employed residents had to endure multiple tests, orientation sessions and a day of tryouts to be selected.  Some have pasts filled with challenges and bad choices.  All of them need a job and most really need a second chance. One 58-year- old candidate told the class that when he got the call that he was selected to go through the training he sat down on his sofa and cried,  “Who would hire me, a 58- year- old, unemployed man with a past. There are guys here far younger than me?” Later that day, on Day One of training, a 22- year- old Newark resident told his classmates “You know what I like about this class? I get to be around older people. Not the 20-somethings I always hang with. You older guys have so much wisdom that we younger guys could benefit from.”  One of the 50-somethings replied, “Do you know when the last time someone told me that I had value?  A long, long time ago.” Bringing these local jobs to Newark residents is not only giving them a second chance, its bringing together the new with the old.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Tomia permalink
    February 27, 2012

    These are very nice projects planning in opening such project even here in italy and give a second chance to older persons.

  2. Trina permalink
    February 27, 2012

    I loved reading this article, David. How wonderful to hear that EPA is not only creating green jobs, but they are creating them near Superfund sites, which are usually recognized as being in underprivileged communities. Thanks for giving the locals a chance! Kudos to EPA

  3. Martin permalink
    February 28, 2012

    WOW – This is a really great idea. I would like to see more sites offer this type of training for locals.

    • David permalink
      February 28, 2012

      We are moving in that direction Martin, exploring how we can expand this program to other sites in the region and how to have workers move from the completion of one site to the start of another project. Thanks for the feedback!

  4. Andre Loxas permalink
    March 12, 2012

    Great Initiative, and it is a good idea for us here in Brazil too. Never tought of a enviroment protection agency as a PATH for creating new job opportunities.

    Congratulations!!

  5. sam permalink
    April 2, 2012

    This program is so cool, actually it was a big help to the unemployed old man who thinks that they can’t get a job anymore it was a reason for them to have a chance to still go on with the thoughts and as what stated in the weblog they can share and teach their thoughts and knowledge. It was a big help and an excellent idea. Thanks for sharing David.

  6. Sergio M permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Great initiative, many cities actually require such initiatives

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