The Green Festival has taken root across the nation over the past ten years but this weekend marks the first time the environment-focused show digs into New York City. It’s not for lack of interest or audience — organizations across New York City have gotten involved in the business of green job development, with their eyes on a sustainable future.
Some of these local organizations “working in the field” will discuss what they do and how New Yorkers can get involved, get trained, and hopefully find jobs, at the Green Festival this weekend at the Jacob Javits Center North in Manhattan.
The festival, co-produced by Global Exchange and Green America, brings together progressive leaders, more than 300 eco-minded exhibitors, 125 speakers and tens of thousands of attendees with the goal of finding sustainable solutions to economic and environmental problems.
On both Saturday and Sunday, panels on green jobs and the green economy will be held. Attendees can learn about how to retrofit their homes or developments to be energy efficient, as well as how to take advantage of efficiency incentives. For example, the Green Jobs-Green New York initiative, signed into law by Governor David Paterson in 2009 and a program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), provides low-income homeowners with free or reduced-priced energy assessments and low-interest loans to finance energy-saving improvements. Green Jobs-Green New York also supports training for green jobs.
When Green Jobs-Green New York passed, it was estimated that 14,000 jobs would be created by stimulating investment in energy efficiency improvements for residential homes and small commercial, not-for-profit and multifamily buildings. Legislation is certainly helping nudge the need for work: see the green buildings legislation passed by the City Council in 2009 and current green zoning legislation before the Council.
One of the groups NYSERDA partners with in its mission is the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. Taleigh Smith, the Weatherization and Green Jobs Coordinator at Northwest Bronx and a panelist in the Green Economy, Jobs and Opportunities portion of the festival, says the jobs aren’t there yet.
“All these folks are trained, but there’s not a lot of hiring. That’s been the frustration,” said Smith, whose organization was also funded by the 2009 federal Recovery Act. “The government has put money into training but not enough business creation.”
Smith was quick to add that change doesn’t always come quickly.
“Creating jobs in the community can’t be resolved overnight,” she said, but suggested that a reason jobs were hard to find is because, in order to get hired for a green NYSERDA job, a contractor needs to be certified with NYSERDA.
“Certified and proven contractors are almost always from outside the Bronx,” she said.
Of course, Smith and others hope the Green Festival can help to spark change.
Jameelah Muhammad is the Community Program Coordinator at the Center for Sustainable Energy at Bronx Community College. On Saturday, she will speak on a panel about workforce development in the green jobs sector, and opportunities that do exist. Muhammad said there is a widely held belief that the green jobs economy will be a major player in the coming years, and that policy will follow the demand.
“We anticipate jobs will be there. Businesses are demanding it and the policies will start to reflect it,” she said.
The Center for Sustainable Energy works with people from all walks of life to train them for these positions. Because they are a part of CUNY’s Continuing Education program, anyone is eligible.
“We work with unions, transit workers, professionals, community members,” she said.
Those seeking green jobs who aren’t cut out for construction work need not worry. The Green Festival will also host exhibitors and panelists that are working in fields like local food production, eco-fashion and community greening project, said Alix Davidson, Senior Regional Director of Green Festivals.
“People will see small businesses selling sustainable products,” she said.
The NYC Green Festival is this Saturday, April 21 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Javits Center North, Manhattan. Admission is free for union members, volunteers, bike riders, people under 18 and over 65 and members of Green America, Global Exchange, Sierra Club and the Central Park Conservancy. Ticket information.