Two years ago Suffolk Construction and The Salvation Army began work on what may be the largest social service center in New England, the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Center on Dudley Street in Dorchester.
Taking up the whole block next to the Fairmount Line Uphams’ Corner T station, it is to have, among its many features, an auditorium, gymnasium, fitness center, peace chapel, commercial teaching kitchen and swimming pool with a water slide that goes outside and then back in the building. Now this huge project with so much promise for the Dorchester/Roxbury community is almost finished.
The Salvation Army responded to the needs of the community as expressed by the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, the Dorchester Roxbury Labor Committee, Youth Build, the Roxbury Builders Guild and other community voices by setting its hiring standards unusually high.
While the Boston Plan, a City Ordinance establishing the Boston Residents Jobs Policy, calls for construction projects involving city money or land to hire 50 percent Boston residents, 25 percent minorities and 10 percent women, the Salvation Army proposed to go that one better and try to raise the hiring goals on the Kroc Center to 51 percent Boston residents, 51 percent minorities and 15 percent women.
The Dorchester/Roxbury Labor Committee and others were at bi-weekly hiring reviews with Suffolk and the Salvation Army from day one — urging Suffolk to be diligent in its hiring of community people. Community members of that work force committee laud what has been accomplished — near compliance with The Salvation Army and community goals. We are concerned, however, with whether this progress will be carried forward.
The Kroc standards have become the community’s standards for other projects involving the city, such as the construction of the Area B Police Station and the Elderly Housing near Dudley Station. Suffolk is also the builder for the latter, but has not as yet committed itself to meeting the Kroc standards. In the past it has had a poor track record in meeting even the Boston Plan percentages.
The Salvation Army originally promised to hire 85 percent of the Center’s full and part time staff from residents living within a one-mile radius around the Center. However, The Salvation Army has not advertised to the neighborhood nor produced job descriptions.
Unemployment in Dorchester is at 11 percent and in Roxbury is 14.6 percent with a median family income of $19, 351. We feel that the community and these large, heavy-handed institutions are at a crossroads. They need to carry out their good intentions for hiring. The Dorchester/Roxbury Labor Committee will be monitoring this situation closely and urge others in the community to do the same.
Jean Alonso and Janet Jones
The Dorchester/Roxbury Labor Committee