City launches $37 million violence intervention jobs program including South Jamaica community

BlocPower CEO and founder Baird poses for a portrait in Brooklyn
BlocPower co-founder and CEO Donnel Baird is working with the city to bring good-paying clean energy jobs to South Jamaica. (Photo via REUTERS/Alicia Powell)

New job opportunities are coming to South Jamaica thanks to a collaboration between a Brooklyn-based entrepreneur and the city, as part of a $37 million violence intervention employment program.

The new initiative connects individuals at risk of involvement in gun violence with good-paying green jobs in partnership with BlocPower, a climate technology startup, headquartered in the Brooklyn Naval Yard, working to make American cities greener, smarter, and healthier, according to City Hall.

“A recovery for all of us does not exist unless each and every New Yorker feels safe,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “By providing training and employment opportunities to those at risk of gun violence, we can stop violence before it happens and invest in safer communities.”

South Jamaica is one of five neighborhoods throughout the city to have been selected for the new program that focuses on communities experiencing 50 percent or more of shootings across the five boroughs, with an explicit interest in those most vulnerable in these neighborhoods. Working with local community organizations, referred individuals identified as “at-risk” in South Jamaica, Brownsville and Mott Haven will be eligible during the first wave of hiring.

Individuals will receive skills training to prepare them for successful employment before getting matched with placement at various job sites.

“BlocPower stands ready to help at-risk New York City young people break the cycle of gun violence by introducing them to a rewarding career in clean energy that will improve their lives and the lives of millions of other people,” BlocPower Co-founder and CEO Donnel Baird said.”This project addresses social, economic and environmental injustices that impact low-income neighborhoods, and people of color, and aligns with what BlocPower is trying to accomplish, improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers and creating opportunities to bring economic prosperity back to the communities that need it most.”

The hybrid training curriculum includes OSHA training, classes on important business communication and technical skills, conflict resolution strategies, de-escalation techniques, and access to culturally competent, trauma-based counseling and other wrap-around services. This training will help ensure the successful integration of participants into a workforce environment.

Upon completion of their initial training period, South Jamaica participants will be certified on various green energy technologies, and eligible for in-demand, good-paying jobs that pay no less than $20 an hour, such as those with BlocPower.

Since its founding in 2014, the company has retrofitted more than 1,100 buildings in under-served communities across the five boroughs, with projects currently underway in 26 cities.

“We have an innovation that has national implications for cities and communities,” Baird said. “Not only in New York but across America.”

The targeted green jobs program is the latest effort by the de Blasio administration to address the recent spike in gun violence while investing in the long-term success of both communities and residents. BlocPower will work with the city and local community organizations in South Jamaica and the other targeted neighborhoods as part of a cohesive Program Team of case managers, workforce instructors, credible messengers, community historians, and neighborhoods to identify ideal candidates.

“Safety is not simply the absence of crime,” Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Executive Director Marcos Solos said. “It starts with individuals having access to basic needs, like good-paying jobs, job training, and support services that provide meaningful work. We’re proud to partner with BlocPower to help build the foundation for long-term safety.”