Twenty-year-old Harry Puck grew up in the enchanting shadow of the iconic destination that is Coney Island, and has always wanted to be a part of it.
On Sunday, Puck finally got his chance. He was one of over a thousand applicants that responded to a job-screening event at Lincoln High School, in Ocean Parkway, for 250 openings for ride operators and concession stand workers in Coney Island.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Puck. “I am applying to be a ride operator, and hope I get the job.”
The annual screening, the fourth of its kind, was organized by the newly formed Alliance for Coney Island, which replaced the old Coney Island Development Corporation.
“We refer as many qualified candidates as possible,” said Nate Bliss, the interim executive director for the alliance. “We help out the employers and provide a one stop resource for job seekers in the area.”
The alliance hosted the screening in partnership with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the HireNYC program. It involved the largest business stakeholders in Coney Island including the Aquarium, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Luna Park, and the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Longtime home to the city’s carnival and amusement park culture, Coney Island suffered sustainable damage from Hurricane Sandy last October. With most of the area submerged under five feet of floodwater, it remained without power, heat, or running water for weeks and many businesses shut down, leading to soaring unemployment rates.
“This screening is one of many efforts that are happening to help Coney Island and surrounding areas recover from Sandy,” said Bliss. “Providing economic opportunities is high on our list of priorities. It is critical to provide them for a community that had a major disruption to its infrastructure and a lot of unemployment.”
Four months after the storm, the “People’s Playground” of New York, as it is affectionately referred to, was still struggling to get back on its feet and the federal government pushed back a deadline for residents and businesses to apply for FEMA grants, intended to assist with relief efforts.
Applicants were invited to apply online for the job screening and were then called in for a pre-screening onSaturday and Sunday and successful applicants then go on to a one-on-one interview before being hired.
“We are looking for people with energy and are friendly,” said Ronald Del Rio an employer with Central Amusement International. “It’s our employees’ job to make sure our guests have a good time.”
Employers have deemed the screening a success since its kick-off four years ago. Last year more than 500 jobs were scooped up through the screening, many by Coney Island residents.
“I’ve been doing this for three years and it’s great,” Del Rio added. “We have an opportunity to sit down with small groups, concentrate on them, get a chance to know them.”
The next job screening is due to take place in April.