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Hempstead in talks over job, contracting referral centers

Hempstead Village officials are negotiating with a local nonprofit and a private Westchester firm to establish two centers -- a jobs and business referral center and a local contracting referral center -- as part of the village's $2 billion downtown redevelopment project.

The village board voted 4-1 this month to authorize Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. to negotiate an agreement with ABBA Leadership Center, of Hempstead Village, and Peekskill-based Crescent Consulting, a minority-owned management consulting services firm. ABBA would run the jobs and business center, while Crescent would manage the contracting center.

"They are the two finalists," Hall said after the meeting. "They were chosen because they were the best. They more or less fulfilled" the requests for proposals.

Trustee Donald Ryan voted against the resolution to approve the negotiations, citing a lack of details. "I find it vague. Intentionally so," Ryan said at the meeting.

Hall responded, "We have to do the negotiations and that is when it is going to come out."

The village put out requests for proposals with a May 17 deadline seeking firms to create the centers, per a controversial community benefits agreement approved in January with the project's master developer, Renaissance Downtowns/UrbanAmerica. The developer will contribute $140,000 a year for three years for each of the centers. A portion of the $18.5 million in zoning fees expected to be collected over an eight-year period also will help fund them, officials have said.

Two groups -- Helping End Violence Now of Mineola and Broken Hearts Helping Hands Charitable Organization of Hempstead -- and Riverhead-based D. Parker and Sons Inc. also submitted proposals to run the jobs and business center. ABBA and Baldwin-based Emerging Business Group Inc. also submitted proposals to run the contracting center.

As jobs and business consultant, ABBA would develop a job training plan, establish a database of job seekers from the village, and maintain a database of construction projects and job needs. Its proposal calls for a $200,000 annual budget.

ABBA would focus on training hard-to-employ African-American and Hispanic men and women, some with criminal records, reducing unemployment and re-incarceration rates, according to its proposal.

"If we put these guys on the street to work, we help them and their families," said ABBA executive director Reginald Benjamin, who has been preparing residents, most 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.

As local contracting center consultant, Crescent would maintain a database of businesses within the project region and contracting opportunities, and provide business development services and technical support. Its proposal calls for an annual budget of $283,685.

Crescent has been a program manager on more than 100 projects. Crescent representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

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