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Bronxites Building the Bronx

Latroy Ewell resurrected his life through a network of support from Sustainable South Bronx and Building Skills NY and now he’s working on the consturction of Bronx Commons. (photo: Gary Axelbank)

by Gary Axelbank

February 12, 2019

There’s not a Bronx project that goes up without the question being asked: “Will Bronxites get the jobs that comes with the development?” Sometimes, in order to make that imperative a reality it takes a network of support.

In their efforts to insure that NY-ers benefit from construction in their home town, the non-profit Building Skills NY (BSNY) says they doubled their citwide local construction job placements last year and, music to this borough’s ears, nearly a hundred of those jobs went to Bronxites.

Latroy Ewell (photo: Gary Axelbank)

One of those is LaTroy Ewell from Mott Haven who is doing roofing for H. Klein and Sons, Inc. Roofing on one of the Bronx’ most significant proejcts, the Bronx Commons housing and music heritage complex being built by WHEDco in the Melrose Commons neighborhood of the south Bronx.

But Ewell’s path to his full-time career was not a smooth one as he spent a decade in prison for a crime that he says he’s now left far behind. While out of circulation though, he made the most of his hard time doing hands-on building maintenance, carpentry, masonry, electrical, and plumbing.

“That’s what really motivated me,” Ewell told thisistheBronX in front of the Bronx Commons construction site at the end of a long working day. ” When I was a kid I helped my uncle built a brick house from scratch.”

Bronx Commons under construction (photo: Gary Axelbank)

Still, when released this past spring, despite his construction skills, he needed the proper certifications so he could fully turn his life around. That he got from Sustainable South Bronx and it was they who set him up with BSNY.

“If it wasn’t for Building Skills I wouldn’t be working,” he said. “Even though I went to Sustainable South Bronx and got my certifications, it was Building Skills that helped me get to this point.”

In November, 2018 the Executive Director of Building Skills NY David Meade appeared on BronxTalk to discuss job training programs in the Bronx.

For their part BSNY was happy to support Ewell, but having the needed certifications was not a pre-requisite.

“Building Skills can connect you to the Osha 10 certifications and other certifications” said Rob Montano of Marathon Strategies, a consultant for BSNY. “They’ll walk you through the skills and attitude you need on a construction site and prepare you for your first time with safety requirements and that kind of thing. Of course, they do job placement as well.”

That job placement not only helped Ewell get on solid ground, but it opened up new doors for him.

LaTroy Ewell at Bronx Commons (photo: Gary Axelbank)

“My specialty is carpentry,” he said, “but by me doing roofing it taught me a lot of things I didn’t know and I’ve kind of fell in love with it. So each day I come to work, I’m learning something new and I’m more passionate about it.”

In 2018 BSNY provided OSHA-30 training to more than 70 New Yorkers in 2018 through its partnerships with Hostos Community College and public housing communities. Securing this critical training has allowed workers to not only gain jobs but also position themselves to advance their careers over the months and years to come.

“I paid my dues, did my time,” Ewelll said with satisfaction. “Now I’m a citizen. I’m going to pay taxes and do everything.”

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About Building Skills New York

Building Skills New York is a not-for-profit organization committed to creating economic opportunities through construction training and professional development programs for those living in underserved communities throughout the city, in order for them to qualify for high paying jobs. The program began by offering New Yorkers training and job placement in the affordable housing industry. In 2014, it expanded to offer high quality, free, hands-on training, and job placement initiatives with leading developers and contractors in the affordable housing space.

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