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Two boro groups get city funds to help day laborers

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The city Department of Youth and Community Development has identified the recipients of three $200,000 stimulus grants designed to help Queens’ immigrant day laborers.

The department announced last week that the Make the Road New York organization will receive two of the grants and the MinKwon Center will receive one, which they must use to help first-generation immigrants hone their employment skills, become familiar with their rights and more.

Day laborers are some of the city’s lowest-paid, most neglected workers, and they often have little knowledge of their rights or the means to improve their employment situations.

“We definitely think the neighborhoods, Jackson Heights and Woodside, Queens, are a crisis center in the economic collapse,” said Saduf Syal, project coordinator for Make the Road New York’s community workforce project. “Day laborers congregate in these areas, often with no knowledge of their rights, the proper wages or safety precautions. So, yes, the need is definitely there.”

Make the Road New York will facilitate programs to offer services to these under-served workers in Jackson Heights and Woodside, while the MinKwon Center will focus its efforts on helping workers in the Flushing area.

The grants are three of six being disbursed throughout the city through the economic stimulus package — two are also being distributed to groups in Brooklyn and one will be awarded in Staten Island.

The MinKwon Center is a rare organization in that its work targeted low-wage immigrant workers most often ends up benefiting Asian Americans, unlike Make the Road’s, which often reaches mainly Hispanic populations.

Steven Choi, MinKwon’s executive director, said the grant money will go a long way toward continuing the group’s years of work helping the day workers of Flushing.

“We will be using this grant to expand a lot of the things that we are already doing: helping people access services whether they have issues with unpaid wages, or helping them get workman’s comp,” Choi said. “And we are also going to do a lot of things with other partners such as ESL classes, job training, job preparedness to help folks be able to land on their feet, especially in this recession.”

Each grant is supposed to help at least 80 workers, according to the Department of Youth and Community Development and should help improve access to services, legal representation, wages, safe conditions and other help for these workers.

Much of the work will be based at the Make the Road New York Queens offices in Jackson Heights and the MinKwon Center in Flushing, but the organizations will also engage in outreach to other areas in order to help as many people as possible.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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