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LIers fall on hard times in tough economy

Brad Pick and his wife Wendy at their

Brad Pick and his wife Wendy at their home in Mastic, NY. (Oct. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Fired after 23 years with company

Mastic resident Brad Pick lost his $19-an-hour job as the head of shipping and receiving for a local label-printing company on Friday the 13th in June 2008. He had worked there 23 years.

"That business went over to China," said Pick, who was paid just over $30,000 a year.

That same year, his home business -- customizing lettering on promotional model trucks for companies -- fizzled. After being on track to pull inasmuch as $150,000 in 2008 from the business, he was splurging.

"We got a pool and a new Honda Odyssey," he said. "We got new TVs . . . and paid off a lot of bills."

Then Wall Street melted down and the recession deepened.

"I had cancellations of tons of my orders," he said.

He lost money in 2008 and in 2009. That year he found a job at an office-products store, where he works as a manager earning $12.36 an hour. That's just over $20,000 a year.

"We go without vacation," said Pick, 55.

He lets his 2001 Isuzu Rodeo go unrepaired. When he and his wife take their younger daughters, both 12, once a month to McDonald's. "The parents don't get anything," he said. The couple also has a daughter in college, whose education costs are being paid by loans.

Six months ago his wife, who is on Social Security disability because of a back injury, started going to food pantries for basics such as milk, cheese and pasta.

"I am ex-military," said Pick, a veteran of the Coast Guard. "I never expected my family to request that kind of help."

-- Carrie Mason-Draffen

College degree hasn't made job search easier

Hope Little, a Hempstead Village resident, left her job finding housing for low-income and homeless people last year after seven years because she could no longer make any money.

"The demand was high, but the supply was low," said Little, as she made copies of her resume at a HempsteadWorks One-Stop Career Center.

She had saved up enough to return to school for three semesters, and in June, Little said she got a bachelor's degree in speech communications and theater arts from York College in Queens.

She thought the degree might make her job search easier, and Little hoped she might be able to "jump back into real estate and close a few deals." But after sending out almost 50 resumes she has gotten few call backs. Some employers said she was overqualified, said Little, who is in her 30s.

"It's better for me to take my degree off my resume, depending on what job I'm going for."

She took the court officer's exam this month, she planned to take the North Hempstead Town housing specialist exam Saturday and wants to take a correction officer exam. She also intends to apply at a nonprofit and used-car dealerships for a sales job.

"I'll be a janitor right now," she said.

In the meantime, Little said she has fallen one month behind on her rent for the apartment where she has lived for 12 years.

Little went to the Nassau County Department of Social Services for help in June and was just approved for rental assistance. She has to pay the money back in monthly installments.

A real-estate firm recently hired her as an office assistant, at $240 a week. She is grateful, but worries about how much money will be left after paying for rent and food.

"What am I going to do with that when I owe everybody?"

-- Carrie Mason-Draffen

Retirement fund now used to pay mortgage

Andres Romero lost his job on Aug. 15, after 21 years as the chief maintenance engineer for a local hotel.

"After I finished that day, they told me they didn't need me," said Romero, 53, who lives in Westbury. "It was a shock."

That same week, he was scheduled to close on a mortgage refinancing to get a lower interest rate.

"I cannot do that now," he said.

Instead, Romero is tapping into his retirement fund to pay the mortgage. He and his wife use money from her part-time job to buy groceries.

He got a job offer recently at LaGuardia Airport but it was for just 30 hours a week and at half the hourly pay he had earned. He declined it because of the expected gas and parking expenses.

"If I am going to make that money it should be close," he said.

Romero isn't optimistic about finding another maintenance job on Long Island. He was planning to attend a Suffolk County Community College open house Thursday to find out about manufacturing-industry courses.

-- Carrie Mason-Draffen

Family-owned store forced to close after 70 years

At the end of last year, Win and Liz Goldman closed their athletic-gear store in Hicksville after more than 70 years in business.

Goldman Bros., already trying to compete with national chains, was clobbered when the economy contracted. Sales had fallen about 25 percent from a pre-recession level of $8 million a year, about half of which came from a website.

Win Goldman, the third generation of his family to operate the retailer, said he couldn't reduce expenses enough to compensate for lower sales. Customers still praised the store's service but sought the chains' generic merchandise and bargains.

"Customers changed habits because of their own fears; their own reality," Goldman said. "Some of them didn't have the money they had in prior years and just had to cut back."

Goldman Bros. opened in 1939, as the nation struggled with the effects of the Great Depression. The retailer withstood another 11 economic downturns before succumbing.

"There just wasn't enough business to go around to sustain all the stores," Goldman said. "There was no hope things were going to get better."

Since the Dec. 31 shutdown, 20 of 30 employees have found jobs. Two work with Goldman in a small uniform business while Liz Goldman has an operations job with another family-owned retailer.

"Goldman Bros. was a big part of Hicksville and our family," Win Goldman said. "Like a lot of people, we're just doing the best we can to survive."

-- James T. Madore

English professor moves to Nassau, then loses job

Michael Niemczyk, 51, lost his job as a Nassau Community College English professor earlier this year when the college didn't renew temporary positions for dozens of professors. The Levittown native, who worked as a full-time professor there for two years, thought the college would rehire him by the end of the summer. It didn't.

At Nassau, where he came from a yearlong, part-time position at the University of New Hampshire, he was told that temporary jobs like the one he was taking normally turned into tenured positions.

He also wanted to be near his aging parents, who live in Melville.

"It seemed like a chance to help out my parents," he said. He said he thought, "This is the place where I could settle and stay a while."

Now, he said, his departure from Nassau "leaves me down here without a job and difficult prospects." Niemczyk, who is single, said he is glad he was always a good saver because with just $350 a week in unemployment benefits after taxes, he's had to tap his savings to pay rent and $700 a month for COBRA health benefits.

"I have at least a year of savings, but I don't know what happens after that," he said. "You have lots of sleepless nights."

In the meantime, Niemczyk, who has 18 years of teaching experience at various colleges, has been sending out cover letters and resumes since July but hasn't heard anything yet.

"To find a regular post is difficult in the best of times, and now it's even harder," he said. "The picture is so grim that I am trying to figure out what are my transferrable skills?" -- Carrie Mason-Draffen

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