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Coney Island Redevelopment? Not Without Jobs For Community

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You want to realize a grand new vision of Coney Island? Then you’re going to have to include existing members of the community to help build and sustain it. That’s the message many in Coney Island are sending to the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) as the group works on its draft proposal to bring new business and fresh opportunities to the area. “The jaws of economics are squeezing us tight,” Minister Eddie Brumfield, executive director of Youth & Community Awareness and a Community Board 13 member told the Bay News this week. Last week, at a meeting to update the public on the progress of the draft, many Coney Island residents complained to the CIDC that they were being left out of the group’s plans for new economic development. “Jobs would be a part of economic development,” said Brumfield. Part of the CIDC’s draft plan now includes the building of a multicultural center in the western half of Coney Island. According to Brumfield, this would be an excellent opportunity to train members of the community who could then go on to fill the many new jobs the CIDC’s plan promises. “If you build a multi-cultural center, then you can begin to train the people,” he said. “You got culinary, you can train carpenters, you could train electricians, and so on down the line.” The building of a multicultural center is one of the key features of the draft proposal that the CIDC says could be realized rather quickly once the plan was approved and funded. “If that’s built sometime early next year, by the end of the year it should be there,” said Brumfield. “That means by the end of the year we could have professional teachers and things in place to train the people. That gives us one year to train people to fit in with whatever opens up.” The CIDC is still trying to decide what community-related programs would operate out of a multicultural center. “This is larger than Coney Island or Community Board 13,” said Brumfield. “There will be more than enough work for everyone, more than enough training for anybody that wants it.” City Councilmember Domenic Recchia said that the community is “definitely being included in the draft proposal.” “When we did the job on the Ocean Parkway bridge, there were people hired from the community,” he said. “When we did the Stillwell Avenue station, there were people hired from the community. They are definitely being included.” In addition, Recchia said that he was talking with a number of organizations about job training in Coney Island. “We’re going to the Astella Development Corporation and others,” he said. “Right now I’m talking to the Central Labor Council to work out a program with them to come into the district and start doing job training.” Another way Brumfield said that Coney Island could loosen the economic jaws clamped down on the community would be to seek out more minority and women-owned developers. “We don’t have any minority developers, investors, or general contractors,” said Brumfield. “Make it an even playing field. Developers are coming in, investors are coming in to invest their money, but they invest their money and take it all out. All we’re saying is invest the money and share it from beginning to end.” According to Recchia, the developers he meets with “every day” do include minorities. “What people don’t understand is that the city doesn’t own this property,” he said. “It’s owned by private land owners and the biggest land owner in Coney Island is Horace Bullard who’s African-American. Horace Bullard has to decide what he wants to do.” While the CIDC talks about developing affordable housing, many in Coney argue that without well- paying jobs that promise a future, they simply won’t be able to afford whatever kind of housing ultimately prevails. “When you come to affordable housing, who can afford it? Can the poor afford it?” Brumfield asked. “Who can afford $300,000 to buy a home? And if you buy one, your maintenance is going to be over $1,000. If we can’t get any of the jobs that are coming, if we can’t get any of the contracts that are coming in, how can we afford what they’re building? It can’t work.” Jobs would help combat another major problem many in Coney Island have – crime. “How do you reduce the crime rate? Give them jobs,” Brumfield said. “Not everyone will want to be trained, but one thing is for sure, it will eliminate some of the drug traffic. If I have a job, I don’t have to go rob for food. My social problems – whatever they might be – if I don’t have economic power I can’t move. Economics is the key.” Affordability should be a key aspect in other areas of the draft plan as well, according to Brumfield. “They want to build a Marriott Hotel, well, great. But if I’m going to have a family reunion and I’ve got 50 relatives coming out, they have to stay at the Marriott. Those prices are high. What you do is a Best Western [instead]. That’s affordable.” Thus far the CIDC has a held five public meetings and promises many more. “My prayer is that they are listening,” said Brumfield. “I believe that we are getting there and people are starting to catch on that this is an opportunity in Coney Island to come alive. This is what everybody is looking for. If Coney Island is coming alive, can we play a part in making it live. [But] we can’t play a part in making it live if we can’t have general contractors, developers and minority firms coming in.” Recchia said that “the day has come for Coney Island to move forward.” “No longer are we waiting for a dream, or this or that to happen. It’s happening now,” he said.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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