Tappan Zee job seminar in Elmsford draws 300, many unemployed

More than 200 people attend a public forum More than 200 people attend a public forum for job seekers wanting to work on the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project at the Greenburgh Public Library. (Feb. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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Some 300 people, many of them out of work and eager to rejoin the workforce, turned out in Elmsford Thursday to see if the Cuomo administration will make good on its promise to create tens of thousands of jobs for the Hudson Valley during construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

They left the Tappan Zee Bridge job seminar hopeful that in the coming months, promise will turn into a paycheck.

"I'm trying to get back to work as soon as possible," said Daniel Zayas of Sleepy Hollow. "I'm just hoping that it's sooner rather than later."

Zayas, 23, was laid off a few months back after the garage door business where he was working ran out of work for him.

His mother, Louise, kept an eye on his 4-month-old son Hayden while Zayas and friend Joshua Schellhorn gathered up as much information as they could during the Thursday morning informational event at Greenburgh Public Library.

With several more months to go before construction gets started, Schellhorn and Zayas thought they might get training in a field like welding to make themselves more attractive to Tappan Zee Constructors, the consortium that will do much of the hiring for the $3.9 billion project.

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"I'm just hoping to get something somewhere," said Schellhorn, 25, who has worked in packaging but has been unemployed for several months.

No jobs were handed out at Thursday's event. Those who packed a first-floor library conference room were encouraged to visit outreach centers set up by the state, where they can drop off resumes and speak to human resources workers. (More information on the outreach centers is available at www.tappanzeeconstructors.com.)

"We need your help creating this bridge," Brian Conybeare, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's special adviser on the new bridge, told the crowd. "There will be an awful lot of opportunity out there in the future. We're trying to put as many people back to work on this project as we can."

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Fourteen construction trade unions will provide much of the labor pool for the project, as specified through an agreement reached last summer with the Cuomo administration.

The unions will offer workers such as heavy-equipment operators and cement truck drivers, many of whom have burned through their unemployment allotments as state and city governments have cut back on major bridge and tunnel jobs during the economic downturn.

State officials have estimated that as many as 45,000 jobs could flow into the Hudson Valley once the project gets under way.

Most of the jobs would be for on-site construction. Thousands more will spill over into the restaurant and hotel industries.

Among those who turned out Thursday were real estate agents looking to find out whether they can play a role in finding housing for workers who will need to relocate during the five-year construction of the dual-span bridge. They were joined by small- and minority-owned business owners.

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Others, like Rodrick Penso of North White Plains, were looking to find steady daytime work after years of being forced into middle-of-the-night jobs because few other opportunities are available.

Penso, 49, said he has done construction work since he was a youngster growing up in Jamaica and wants to return to the field.

"I've been doing it since I was 12 years old," Penso said. "I grew up in it. I love it."

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