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Workforce Referral Networks: The Hot New Approach to Local Hiring

City Limits | by Abigail Savitch-Lew


In low-income communities throughout the city that are discussing large development projects or neighborhood rezonings, residents frequently demand guarantees of local hiring. It’s a concern of obvious importance—a matter of ensuring wealth generated by neighborhood change is distributed equitably. And it’s especially relevant where new development threatens to exacerbate displacement pressures for existing low-income residents. If such residents stand to benefit from the development coming to their neighborhood, so the thinking goes, they’re a little more likely to resist displacement pressures. That’s true when there’s a job in the offing and truest, of course, when the job provide a decent wage.

In answer to these concerns, the Blasio administration often touts the recently expanded HireNYC program, which sets hiring standards for employers that are doing business with or receiving certain kinds of financial support from the city or that are tenants in certain city-managed or city-assisted developments. But that program, while important, has a limited scope: developers who are not receiving financing from the city and are building on private land face no requirements, though they may choose to work with city or non-profit workforce providers in the area.

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