Hempstead village officials and developers praised a local nonprofit group Wednesday for placing local hard-to-employ and at-risk residents in construction jobs, including some at the village's $2 billion downtown redevelopment project.

Faith-based ABBA Leadership Center has helped more than 200 men and women find full- and part-time work since June 2011.

Through its job-placement program, ABBA has prepared residents, some with criminal records, to fill some of the 25 percent of 10,000 construction jobs at the downtown project expected to be offered to village residents first.

"We're not in this just to get temporary work," ABBA's executive director Reginald Benjamin said at a news conference at the Linden Avenue and South Franklin Street construction site, where he has placed 22 of the 80 workers for the $33 million, five-story apartment project called Linden Knolls.

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"We are here so that they can pick up the skills and find a job somewhere else . . . We want these guys to have hope and a future," he said.

Robert Cavaliere, vice president and head of construction for D&F Construction Group Inc., based in Lake Success, said he is pleased with the quality of ABBA's referrals.

"It makes no sense to bring outside people when you're working in the community," said Cavaliere, adding that the 100-unit apartment building is expected to be completed in May 2014.

Benjamin, an ex-offender, is negotiating a contract with village officials to establish a jobs and business referral center as part of the village's makeover.

"Hopefully, this would lead to careers for our young men," said Mayor Wayne Hall Sr., citing the village's 7.7 percent unemployment rate.