Peace on Earth

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Two events in the final weeks of 2012 have dampened the holiday season and will make this a year we will never forget. First was Hurricane Sandy, a storm that hit our shores and destroyed communities. The second was the Newtown, Conn., shooting that has shaken a nation.

In both tragedies we have witnessed the best of the human spirit. The response to Sandy has been phenomenal. Thousands of volunteers have stepped up to help their neighbors in every way possible. And in Newtown, broken hearts were lifted by the reports of a principal and teachers who put themselves in the line of fire to save the children.

Even in the midst of tragedy, there is reason in this season for hope. We wish our readers a joyous and peaceful holiday season.

Sandy’s Silver Lining

The devastation of Hurricane Sandy has brought some good news to Queens. A $27 million federal grant will put 5,000 unemployed New Yorkers to work cleaning up after the storm.

Volunteers have done a great job, but the city’s storm-ravaged communities need a well-organized and paid workforce to finish the job.

The bad news is that 30,000 unemployed have already applied for these jobs.

At a breakfast with York College’s executive leadership, state Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera said, “It gives you the kind of idea of where we are as a community and what some of the problems are in our communities.”

There is a time limit on these jobs, but as Rivera and the number of applicants made clear, it is only a temporary solution.

Rivera said he has hope the state can help to create jobs in what he called “communities of color,” where unemployment has hit the hardest. That’s a daunting task. These communities went over the fiscal cliff long ago. When large numbers of people lost jobs, foreclosures rose and small businesses closed.

Programs such as Youth Works, which provides tax credits to employers who hire people between 16 and 24 who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, are a step in the right direction. Youth in southeast Queens need an expectation that if they overcome their challenges, they can get a job.

We wish Rivera success.

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