Local Workers Hired at Stephen Manor, Vita Garden Apartments
The Stephen Manor and Vita Garden housing complexes are receiving $7 million of improvements after being purchased by Vitus Group of New York. And thanks to some local employers, some of the improvements are being done by local young men seeking to turn their lives around.
The large-scale project is being handled by Ellisdale Construction, an out-of-state firm that hired Asbury resident Arnold Faulhaber, owner of Coastal NJ Fence Group. After hearing complaints that not enough jobs on site were going to Asbury residents, Faulhaber contacted general contractor Duanne Small, owner of Kingz Group, who is bringing in his own men to do some of the projects.
Today, Faulhaber’s and Small’s employees worked on installing a new chain-link fence [pictured above].
Javon Spicer [above, right], 21, has known employer Small for a while and calls him his mentor. He attended Brookdale Community College, first for business management and then for landscape architecture. He was happy to be working in Asbury Park and not out of town, he said.
Shaaheed Curry, 30, got out of jail two years ago and is hoping to turn his life around with help from employers like Small and Faulhaber. He’s been working with Small for six months, he said.
“I don’t want to go back to what I used to do,” said Curry, who was in federal prison for selling guns. “Duanne’s been in my shoes. He wants us to put down the guns and drugs and show we have skills.”
Curry has two children, ages four and one, and has been all over Asbury Park filling out job applications. He said most potential employers told him he was unsuitable to work with them due to his arrest record.
“I’m trying to get a second chance,” he said. “I want to get up, work from 8 to 4 and go home without worrying about going to jail.”
Faulhaber and Small worked together on Bamboozle clean-up in May as well, Faulhaber said.
The dearth of jobs for young people in Asbury Park is “definitely a problem,” said Faulhaber. “As a retired fireman I’ve been here all my life, and the lack of jobs hasn’t changed. Nobody seems to want to do anything about it.”
He urges people to hire locally for everything from grass-cutting and snow removal to boarding up old houses. He’d also like to see a list of local workers established online, so that those in need of work around the house can go to a website and pick from a list of names to have their maintenance work completed.
Small has been an outspoken proponent at city council meetings of hiring locally and decreasing the unemployment rate in town.
“Groups of young men are walking around with nothing to do,” he said today. “It’s easier to get a gun in this town than it is to get a job.”
He said employing young people in town is especially important in light of the recent rash of shootings.
“People who are working in the community take pride in the community,” he said. “If you have a town that’s being rebuilt, how do you have [such a high rate of] unemployment?”