Last Tuesday, Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton, local elected officials and members of the project’s advisory council gathered at the JFK Redevelopment Community Information Center in Jamaica for the announcement.
Cotton said the four initiatives are the result of dialogue and recommendations from the advisory council, which is co-chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz and Congressman Gregory Meeks.
“We really are focused on ensuring that when we do major infrastructure projects, that we do them with the community,” he said.
The Port Authority leader said he wants the JFK Redevelopment project to be a “national model” for large-scale projects that ensure community benefits for surrounding neighborhoods.
“We want to be a model starting from the very beginning of the project,” Cotton said.
The first initiative is a jobs recruiting program to match southeast Queens residents with job openings for the redevelopment. The target is 15,000 operating jobs at the airport and 4,000 construction jobs expected during the five-year construction period.
The hiring effort will be based out of the Jamaica office of the Council for Airport Opportunity (CAO), a nonprofit trade association that identifies employment needs in the neighborhoods surrounding local airports.
By spring 2020, the Port Authority will open a new JFK Career Center at the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation in Far Rockaway, which will have four staff members focused on connecting local residents to employment opportunities.
The next initiative is the creation of a new Office of Second Chance Employment (OSCE) within the Council for Airport Opportunity to provide opportunities for formerly-incarcerated individuals.
The office will work with existing organizations and forge new partnerships with groups like the Fortune Society, Thomas White Jr. Foundation, 100 Suits for 100 Men, Exodus Transitional Services, LIFE Camp and more.
Five major employers with the redevelopment, including operations contractors and the Port Authority itself, have committed to interviewing qualified candidates for at least 25 percent of eligible jobs.
“This means changing patterns on all sides of the hiring process,” Cotton said, “and we are committed to do that.”
Next, the JFK Redevelopment project will support the launch of a Science and Technology Education Program (STEP) for local students in grades one through 12. The program will be run by York College, and will serve 300 students every summer.
The summer program, which relaunches in 2020, will provide four weeks of full-day sessions, along with Saturday sessions in the fall and spring.
This $3 million initiative builds off York College’s Science Engineering Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) program, which was first established in 1999 with funding from NASA. SEMAA has been at risk of being eliminated due to federal budget cuts.
“The program will focus not only on STEM in general, but will highlight aviation and aeronautics,” Cotton said, “and can hopefully inspire the next generation of home-grown Queens aviation experts.”
The last initiative is a commitment from the new Terminal One to reserve at least 50 percent of food and beverage concession venues for New York City-based restaurants, with a specific focus on Queens-based businesses.
In addition, the Port Authority will launch a new training program to prepare Queens companies to compete for these concession opportunities.
All of these initiatives, Cotton said, are focused on job creation, small business outreach and capacity-building, education for local residents and environmental stewardship.
All of them will be implemented before the first project of the JFK Redevelopment breaks ground at the end of the year.
“We view the announcements today as a beginning,” Cotton said. “Stay tuned for additional announcements.”
Katz praised the hiring initiatives as the “perfect opportunity” to prove that big organizations and government entities can respond to community needs.
“The initiatives are groundbreaking, it is a prototype,” she said. “We should hold other organizations accountable to the standards we have set here.”
Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who is a member of the advisory council, said this is only the beginning of a “lovely relationship” for “business opportunities.”
“It’s great to have the chamber as part of this council to help get the word out to our members and others,” Grech said, “so they can benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”