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"He who knows his WHY in life can live through any HOW" - Victor Frankl

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greening Homes with Green Jobs in Newark’s South Ward

Standing at a crowded bus stop, you will probably begin chatting with a fellow commuter about the bitter cold temperatures of the past few weeks. Gas versus electric might be the conversation at the onset, but by the end last month’s heating bill and why a notable portion of your income is reserved for utilities, will probably be the debacle that binds. According to The National Energy Assistance Director Association (NEADA), a New Jersey household will spend $1500-$2000 on home heating this season. This begs the questions, what can be done to reduce heating costs and is there an employment opportunity in coming up with a solution?

The Garden State Alliance for a New Economy (GANE), a coalition of community organizations and laborers, joined Newark-based labor union Local 55 and the City of Newark to launch a Green construction training initiative on January 12. The 25 Newark resident participants, previously employed or trained in contracting, are presently learning weatherization techniques as part of the program. Areas of focus pertain to insulation of windows, doors and heating systems in addition to site and material safety.

Forty-five Goldsmith Avenue in Newark’s South Ward is the home of Daniel and Gilda Johnson. Launch site for the GANE/Local 55 program, the Johnson’s have spent the last three years making small improvements on their home. Many of their plans changed as energy demands and costs began to rise. With one income faced with a $500 heating bill, the weatherization program is a welcomed relief. “We are seniors,” said Mrs. Johnson, “one of us retired, one on the way to being retired…that’s a lot of money going out on one income. I’d like to thank Mayor Booker, Local 55 and GANE for bringing this project to our house, and being the first recipients of this project.” According to the Department of Energy, the Johnson’s can expect anywhere between 15 and 35 percent decrease in their energy bill after the improvements totaling an average savings of $350 a year.

The 30-home weatherization kickoff costs about $10,000, and is free for low-income residents. Funding was acquired by a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Grant awarded to Laborers Local 55 to provide training, wages and benefits. The 25 GANE members will earn $15 an hour in addition to union membership. “I hear a lot of talk on TV about Green jobs,” said Perette Hopkins, a 7-year construction veteran and Local 55 trainee, “but in Newark, we’re not just talk, we’re actually doing it. And thanks to Cory Booker, GANE, the laborers union again for giving me the opportunity and training, but also giving me a future,” said Hopkins.

Mayor Cory Booker recognized the triple benefit of weatherizing homes through Green workforce development in Newark. “We have here a number of wins; we’re going to help families in the city of Newark, were going to keep our environment improving, were going to save energy, we’re going to create jobs, but more importantly than that, we’re going to create careers for Newark residents,” said Booker.

Mayor Booker, Governor Corzine and President-Elect Obama have vocalized their commitment to Green jobs and a reduction in energy consumption. With GANE and Local 55 leading the charge in Green training, Newark residents and laborers have cheerleaders in high places.

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