Hundreds of job seekers showed up Saturday at the first in a series of job fairs organized by the master developers of Hempstead Village's downtown revitalization project.
Part of an agreement between the village and the two private firms selected to spearhead the $2.5 billion redevelopment project calls for the companies to make "good faith efforts" toward giving the first 25 percent of the expected 10,000 construction and 3,500 permanent jobs to village residents.
Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, a Plainview company partnering with Manhattan-based UrbanAmerica on the downtown makeover, told those crowded at the Academy Charter School in Hempstead that his company planned to keep its word to give village residents first dibs on the gigs.
"Follow up, watch us," Monti said. "We're going to follow up with you."
He estimated there were some 2,000 people who flowed into the five-hour-long career fair, with more fairs and job training sessions in the works. Job seekers from surrounding communities such as Westbury and Elmont also showed up, and were encouraged to fill out a registration form, but Monti emphasized village residents will receive preference.
Monti said the first phase of construction on the 10-year project is expected to start "midsummer," bringing the possibility of 300 to 500 construction-related jobs.
Jose Francisco Morales, 46, a 12-year village resident, was among those applying for a construction job. Morales said he missed a day of construction work Saturday to ensure he would be among the first to sign up for the downtown project.
"It's giving people hope," Morales said.
Some residents raised concerns to Monti that the massive project might shutter small businesses, but he said he planned to arrange a meeting with the business owners to hear their concerns and "give them an assurance that they will stay here in the village."
Village trustee Livio A. Rosario, one of three board members to approve the controversial plan in January, said he believed the project, which includes mixed-use residential and commercial buildings, will boost the area's economy.
"We've been a diamond in the rough," Rosario said at the event. "Now this diamond is being polished."