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Old Posted May 28, 2009, 4:31 AM
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At Circus Job Fair, No Thrill Seekers Needed

May 27, 2009

A job fair for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus may conjure visions of strapping gymnasts in spandex, carnival barkers and more clowns than you can fit in a small car. But the 150 positions being offered at KeySpan Park in Coney Island on Wednesday were for far less fanciful jobs.

Ringling Brothers is preparing for its first extended show — the Coney Island Boom-a-Ring! — in a Brooklyn neighborhood best known as a seaside amusement attraction. But Coney Island is also a historically poor area with a high unemployment rate.

In a light drizzle, more than 500 people, many from the surrounding housing projects, waited for hours for an interview. They crossed their fingers for the chance at less than three months’ work as ticket takers, ushers and custodians, starting at minimum wage.

“I thought there would be more people,” said Rafael Fernandez, 35, who lives nearby. “Coney Island is hurting a lot. I know a lot of people looking for work right now.”

Pam Harris, the executive director of Coney Island Generation Gap, a youth-focused nonprofit group, sent volunteers into the community to knock on doors and pass out fliers advising residents of the circus job opportunities.

“The economic downturn here has hit us really hard,” she said.

The group that showed up was a mix of college graduates, high school students, recently laid-off professionals and many who have been looking for work longer than they cared to admit. Most said they were ready to sign up for any employment, even if it was temporary. The circus, which will feature 12 shows a week, runs from June 18 through Sept. 7.

“I apply everywhere,” said Sean Jones, 34, who had traveled for several hours to apply. “They say ‘we’re not hiring,’ or ‘come back in a couple of months,’ or I put the application in and never hear from them again.”

“A lot of jobs don’t hire teens,” said Catherine Clark, 16, cradling her son, Paris. “But I’m not like everybody else. I’m mature, plus I have a child. I need a job.”

Lynn B. Kelly, president of the Coney Island Development Corporation, which is leading the redevelopment of much of the area and helped organize the event, said that turnout at the job fair had exceeded expectations.

“It may be a function of the market,” Ms. Kelly said. “Or it may be that, how often in life do you get a chance to say you’ve worked at the circus?”
NEW YORK heals.

“Office buildings are our factories – whether for tech, creative or traditional industries we must continue to grow our modern factories to create new jobs,” said United States Senator Chuck Schumer.
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