The second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy was celebrated with several remembrance ceremonies. Cheri Jackson turned down all those invitations. Her group, Tenants United Oceanbay, felt the best way to celebrate the day was to empower others. They held an onsite registration drive for the NYC Department of Sanitation Exam. The online application is the first step in qualifying for a job in Sanitation, taking its test. The high attendance at the registration drive, rivaled any remembrance ceremony that day.
The comprehensive sign up drive, which took place at the Arverne branch of the Queens Library, included everything applicants needed for this first step towards employment success.
The front door was manned by David Shellborne from the ‘African American Benevolent Society’. The 16 year veteran of Sanitation greeted applicants and talked with them about the department and available opportunities. Andrenia Burgis, Superintendent of Sanitation, whose group ‘100 Sanitation Workers Who Care’ collaborated on the event, was also on hand with information and to facilitate the application process.
“It’s not just about garbage,” said Andrenia.
Andrenia is only the third woman in history to hold the position of Superintendent. Her group felt that it was important to be a part of the day’s event especially since there hasn’t been an exam for Sanitation in seven years. With a possible 500 job openings and an emphasis on women and minorities, there is even more reason to participate. It is also a second chance opportunity as the Department of Sanitation is one of the only agency that allows those with a felony record to become an employee.
“We decided as a group that we wanted to come to our communities…too many of us are not in these positions. We want regular girls and guys to know what’s available,” she said.
She didn’t know what type of job opportunities would open up when she took the test. A self-proclaimed cute girl, she didn’t know if she could pick up garbage. Andrenia did know she was unhappy in the position she was in and didn’t get enough time with her children. She felt the Sanitation opportunity could help.
“It’s an awesome job,” she said. “Individuals can move up the ranks, there are different things a sanitation worker can do.”
Organizers of the event felt the push for people to sign up should be more than just telling people to get out there, but to provide information, address concerns and take them through the process.
Once applicants were inside, there were approximately 15 computers designated specifically for the application process. Charles Fleming, known in the community for manning the computer desk at Queens’ Library’s Far Rockaway branch, was on site to help applicants navigate the online process. He used his time off to be a part of the sign up process which proved to be very valuable. The online application process, however straightforward, can be daunting for even an internet savvy user.
There was also translation help for Spanish speakers provided by Clarabell Santos. Cheri Jackson, who led the event, kept the line going and the energy high. The enthusiasm carried over to the corner store nearby. Store patrons were buzzing about the event and urging neighbors to sign up that day.
The sign up period for the exam has ended and the actual test will take place on February 8 at sites throughout the city. Organizers will be looking at setting up training classes to help those that have signed up pass the test.