The massive developments are bringing back jobs lost as a result
of the attacks on the World Trade Center, which killed 2,753 people.
But many of the openings, for everything from fast food servers to
shop assistants and housekeeping staff, are going to be paying
little more than the city's $8 an hour minimum wage, with few
Employers complain that hiring staff with the necessary skills and
attitude is difficult. The workers say that isn't surprising given
they aren't offering the kind of compensation needed to build a life
in New York City.
"This is the challenge for us all, isn't it?" said Andrew Breslau, a
spokesman for the Downtown Alliance, a research and advocacy
organization that promotes development of Lower Manhattan. "Job
growth and making sure that a rising tide floats all boats is what
keeps New York strong."
A lot of construction work is still underway in the area, with the
noise of drills and heavy equipment reverberating off the high rises
around the World Trade Center site. Thousands of tourists throng the
9/11 Memorial, which is built within the footprints of the twin
towers, and the nearby 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Some $30 billion in private and public money was poured into the
rebuilding effort, Breslau said. More than 1.55 million square feet
of new retail space is expected to open in the next two years. The
biggest developments yet to open include the World Trade Center
buildings, Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport, and the Fulton
Street Transit Center.
Some 16,000 private-sector jobs have been added to the Lower
Manhattan economy since 2005, more than half of those in the past
two years, according to the alliance.
That hasn't yet made up for the job losses suffered after 9/11 and
the financial crisis as about 58,000 private sector jobs disappeared
in the area as a result of those events, but with the new
developments opening and more office workers moving downtown the gap
could close quickly.
The hiring is helping cut the New York state joblessness rate, which
fell to 6.6 percent in June from 6.7 percent in May, its lowest
since November 2008, the state's department of labor said on
Thursday, though that is still above the national rate of 6.1
But the jobs recovery includes a lot of low-paid and part-time jobs.
And U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen has expressed concern
about low growth in wages and its impact on consumer spending. Real
wages, she says, have been lagging productivity growth, which has
redistributed income to capital and away from labor.
Many of the workers at the recently opened Hudson Eats Food Court in
Brookfield Place (which used to be known as the World Financial
Center) say they are receiving $9 to $10 an hour.
"They start you at $9, but I should get more than that," said
Charlene Pacheco, a shift leader at the Num Pang sandwich shop. "I
know my worth, but it is what it is. You got to do what you’ve got
[to top of second column]
The food court staff represent a cross section of the city's
formerly jobless and underemployed. Some had been out of work for
several months. Others needed a second job to make ends meet.
Joseph Fontanez, a chef at the Little Muenster café, said he was out
of work for six months before scoring his job after two dozen
applications and 15 interviews. He has a two-year-old daughter to
support and shares a house with his mother and brother on Staten
"A lot has changed for me in the past two weeks," he said. "I've
been here two weeks and I've already got another job opportunity
here in the food court. I need the extra job."
For others, getting extra hours is key to supporting a more artistic
career - which is a typical New York phenomenon.
"I’m an actor so I kind of pick up a lot of gigs," said Jackie
Rivera, a Barista at the Blackseed Bagel, who makes $10 an hour plus
tips. "It seems to have been easier recently for me to just pick up
While some employers are wary of hiring the long-term unemployed,
many are more interested in attitude.
"We don't really ask about how long they've been unemployed. I care
more about the feeling I get from that person at that moment, and
not so much about what happened before,” said Eric Ortega, manager
of Dos Toros Taqueria Mexican fast food restaurant in the food
court. "One thing we always try to look for is that people are
willing to learn."
Adrian Bruyiere, manager of the Tartinery, a French sandwich
restaurant, said he prefers to find staff through friends.
"If I put an ad on Craigslist or an agency, they don’t send people I
can work with," he said. "We don’t pay a lot but we try to give a
nice atmosphere to work. They can get their lunch. They don’t work
too many hours.”
(Edited by Martin Howell)
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