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Roxbury residents want more area residents, people of color employed on Ferdinand project in Dudley Square

Posted by Patrick Rosso  October 19, 2012 03:27 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Picketers outside the Ferdinand building Friday morning.

By Patrick D. Rosso, Town Correspondent

Armed with megaphones and signs, about 25 area residents and activists took to the streets of Dudley Square in Roxbury on Friday morning to protest what they see as a lack of hiring of area residents, people of color, and women on the Ferdinand building project and other area developments.

“We pay taxes here, we live here, we die here, but we can’t get a job here,” said Fulani Haynes, 71, a retired nurse and life-long Roxbury resident. “We have to build a future for our children and have to stand up. They’ve systematically taken everything from us. It’s not right.”

Boston is redeveloping the long-abandoned Ferdinand department store and two adjacent buildings.

The city hopes to complete the project by 2014 and then relocate the Boston School Department’s headquarters and its more than 450 school administration staff to the site. City officials hope the project not only helps to revitalize the heart of Roxbury but also regain the trust of residents, who on multiple occasions have seen public officials renege on promises for redevelopment there.

Protesters, who have been picketing the job site every morning since Monday, say there are not enough people of color working on the project and that too many jobs are going to workers who don't live in Boston, particularly in Roxbury.

“Every neighborhood should get some of the benefits of construction,” said John Cruz, 69, owner of John B. Cruz Construction and a Jamaica Plain resident. “We want to bring more attention to the problem. More effort needs to be made when hiring.”

About 31 percent of people working on the $119-million project are from Boston, a percentage that the city acknowledged falls short of its 50 percent goal.

The project is also not meeting its goal of ensuring women make up 10 percent of the project workforce. Currently just over 6 percent of the workers are women, the city says.

The project however, is exceeding minority hiring goals with 67.2 percent of workers representing minorities, exceeding the goal of 25 percent, according to the city.

Cit officials said at the moment not all the goals can be met at this time because a lot of the work requires special licensing for crews.

“The work that has taken place so far has been difficult to find workers for,” said Brooke Woodson, director of the Boston Residency Job Policy Office, which monitors jobs sites for hiring compliance. “It’s a specialized trade [abatement and heavy equipment operation] that requires a license.”

The project is currently in the early phase of work, with 12,038 man-hours completed by 109 workers.

“This is all prep work before the building comes out of the ground,” said Patrick Brophy, assistant director of Capital Construction at the City of Boston. “Once we get all the major trades we expect the number to go up. These numbers change as the work changes.”

Protestors, however, weren’t buying it Friday morning. Many said that if residents don’t have proper licenses then area schools need to teach classes that can get people employed.

“You should post the jobs and make the public aware about them,” said Naomi Thompson, 40, the chief diversity officer at the University of Rhode Island and a Roxbury resident. “We need to create a pipeline for the kids and get them qualified. Why not educate these kids so when they come out of school they have the skills for the trade?”

The city says it is committed to hiring area residents, people of color, and women.

The city and Shawmut have established a walk-in job center at 22 Warren St. in Dudley Square. A community liaison, employed through Shawmut, is available during construction hours to meet with prospective applicants and steer them in the right direction.

“We have always made it a priority and we’re committed to have local residents on that job,” said Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “We hear them and we are on-board.”

But many who have showed up every morning to picket aren’t seeing it reflected by the people working on the site.

“We’re tired of seeing out-of-state license plates coming into our community and taking our jobs,” said Priscilla Flint, 57, an organizer with the Leadership Forum and a Roxbury resident. “We were promised jobs in the community and it’s just not happening.”

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Picketers outside the Ferdinand building Friday morning.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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