Non-profit brings work to BankNote building

Photo: Courtesy of Fedcap

Larry Turman works at one of the mail sorter in the BankNote building.

Fedcap hopes training will yield 150 jobs

Six years ago, Larry Turman was unemployed. Mentally unstable, with a history of homelessness, he relied on the aid of government and nonprofit service agencies.

Today, Turman, 57, works full-time in a mailroom. On a recent afternoon, he was racing to meet a deadline for a thousand-letter mailing. “The customer wants what the customer wants,” said Turman, who has wanted to work in a mailroom since he was 17.

He stacked letters into a feeder and waited for the envelope to boomerang out of the 14-foot long folding machine.

Turman changed his life around with the help of Fedcap, a one-stop non-profit that evaluates, instructs, trains and, in some cases, hires those with employment barriers, supporting them on their journey to economic independence.

In November, Fedcap will expand its Manhattan-based office services divisions to the BankNote building on Lafayette Avenue. The move will bring Turman, his small mailroom team and 60 other staff members to Hunts Point.

The 85-year old nonprofit spent months of research and community outreach to choose its new location, according to Fedcap CEO Christine McMahon.

Its research found that the South Bronx has the city’s highest rate of unemployment, up to 30 percent in some areas. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in the Bronx is two to three percentage points higher than in New York’s other four boroughs.

Fedcap wants to change those numbers. Expanding business to Hunts Point will allow the office services division, which provides mailing and date entry services, to tap into new clientele, bolstering the organization while creating 10 new jobs right away, with more to come, according to McMahon. Over the next three to five years, she estimates, the business’ growth and onsite vocational training could spawn an additional 150 jobs.

With the BankNote expansion, the office services division will bring printers and sorters that are currently in storage into use, according to Jennifer Bertrand, Fedcap’s director of community relations.

“We envision that our business will grow and hire more people,” says Bertrand.

But most of the job creation will come from the businesses that have contracts with Fedcap. Once Fedcap trains them, it places many graduates with the businesses and public agencies it serves.

For example, although Larry Turman currently works for Fedcap, managing mailings to its clients, his first job right after completing Fedcap’s Career Design School was sorting and circulating mail for the Port Authority.

“Fedcap is there if they need the support,” said Betrand, of Fedcap’s graduates, but she added that the ultimate goal is to equip clients with skills that will lead them to jobs in their own community.

The organization has already made headway with local businesses. According to Betrand, Fedcap has started conversations with Hunt Point’s Veterans Association, as well as small business she says “would be well-suited” to hire Fedcap trainees. The organization hosted an information table at the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation’s annual tent event for Hunts Point businesses, on Sept. 30.

The move to the BankNote will bring some of the building’s space back to its original purpose, when the American Banknote Company printed currency, stamps and stock certificates. The walls and windows will rumble once again to the vibrations of printing machinery. The lease for 10,000 square feet will house Fedcap’s big printers, sorters, and digital scanners, bringing a currently scattered operation in Chelsea under one roof.

The landmark building’s high ceilings and the loading dock off Lafayette Avenue, will better accommodate Fedcap, which has contracts with CUNY, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York Ambulance Corporation.

To be sure it would be welcome, Fedcap hosted four listening sessions over the past six months, including one at the Hunts Point Library, on April 22.

“We want to play well in the sandbox,” said McMahon.

Councilwomen Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who attended one of the sessions, was favorably impressed.

“I look forward to continuing a very positive and collaborative relationship with Fedcap as we work to improve the economic circumstances of those I represent,” said Arroyo in a statement.

While politicians and community organizations think of economic development when they welcome Fedcap, Larry Turman thinks only of people who are in situations similar to the one he was in less than decade ago.

“I’m just happy more people will have the opportunity that I had,” says Turman.

As for work itself, the smiling Morrisania resident says that won’t change after the move to the BankNote—but his commute will.

Turman plans to bike to work, “especially if the fare keeps going up.”

A version of this story appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Hunts Point Express.

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