The home on South Ferry Street wasn’t just any house in historic downtown’s rowhouse area—built in 1815, vacant for nearly a decade, and complete with four stories of narrow, creaky staircases, it now houses residents who participate in the Altamont Program, a part of Father Peter Young’s organization that houses and guides people down on their luck. Veterans, the homeless, and people struggling with addiction can receive a warm place to stay and educational and vocational training at 90 locations around the state, before they’re re-launched into society. The GREEN Team, which stands for Getting Residents Energy Efficient Now, partnered with the Altamont Program to help create an in-house green training academy that seeks to produce self-sufficient taxpayers who can get a job in the green field.
“We want to provide a job and give someone a dignity paycheck. They’re trained to be a building analyst specialist and if their academia doesn’t suit that need, they can get a job in insulation or manufacturing and production of green products,” says Bill Balfe, the Altamont Program’s COO and director of green jobs. “This academy has all the components and [pieces] of the pie fitting together and it’s working out well—we’ve already found about 12 jobs through green training. You create the career path and the career ladder.”
Balfe says the green training academy goes hand in hand with the philosophy of the Altamont Program and Father Young’s mission.
“The three-legged stool—housing, industries, and treatment. You give them treatment for addiction and treatment for services, then give them a clean, sober place to live, which is what this is,” Balfe says.
He adds that by hosting the barn raising he’s expanding what the academy teaches to the community, which was GREEN Team’s founder Jim Devine’s mission all along.
“By forming the GREEN Team group we’ve got a bunch of organizations coming together to build a team and a process that can be easily replicated,” says Devine, adding that GREEN Team has a website, Twitter account, and newsletter. “We’re going to give all the information and building blocks necessary to do the same thing in another town, city, or region; all the ‘how tos’ made available to everyone around the State of New York.”
This barn raising was the group’s first weatherization project and the work being done would have taken a work crew nearly a week or two to complete, Devine says. With close to 50 volunteers, a work crew from Lowe’s, and thousands of dollars of materials donated by Lowe’s, the work was finished in about four hours.
Energy Management Solutions provides energy-efficient weatherization techniques to clients across the state. Mike Bennett, an energy auditor and company official, laid out just what the energy savings from this project would be—$4,183 a year, representing nearly 35 percent of the building’s energy costs.
Balfe said roughly $12,000 is spent to heat the four-story house for an entire year. Virtually zero insulation and far-from-airtight windows were largely to blame for high heating costs. The volunteers insulated an unfurnished attic with exposed rafters to reduce draftiness, while a multi-room basement with stone walls received insulation and window sealing treatments to reduce cold air and dampness.
Bennett says Energy Management Solutions will develop its own programs across the state and country that will train people to become energy managers, auditors, and installers.
“The result will be skilled energy auditors and analysts. There’s a growing list of jobs each day with projects across the state, and not enough people to get these jobs done. Between our program and Father Young’s people that will eventually be trained all over New York, we will be a vehicle to provide change,” says Bennett. “If successful, we’ll be creating green jobs immediately. Under New York State’s new Green Jobs/Green New York law, 14,000 jobs in this line of work will be created.”
Devine said that when, or if, GREEN Teams pop up across the state, the barn raisings will be an important component in reaching out to the community.
Volunteers “will be able to perform the work because now they’d done it,” Devine says. “Caulking windows, insulating cellar or attic walls—people who had no idea how to do these things this morning will know how to by nightfall. And hopefully they’ll be able to do this in their own homes as well.”
Devine said the GREEN Team will try to do one barn raising a month, and if it gets really brave, shoot for two.
Balfe said the Altamont Program liked the GREEN Team’s idea so much that it hopes to do the same thing to facilities in Rochester and Buffalo in the near future.
George Crockwell is a recent graduate of the green training program. He has since moved out of 37 South Ferry St. and runs and coordinates all the program’s maintenance efforts in Albany—which means that when another site is weatherized, he’s the go-to man.
“It was a very intense program but it was illuminating to realize how much energy people really lose without realizing it—whether it’s through holes or by using [incandescent] light bulbs,” says Crockwell, who helped insulate the attic. “In a building this size, a few hundred holes in a building can end up equaling a huge hole, which lets tons of heat leak out.”
The barn raising ended as community volunteers, residents, Energy Management Solutions staff, and youth from the Albany and Schenectady Youth Build Programs had their efforts rewarded at the end of the day, when they enjoyed food prepared by the Altamont Program’s culinary training program.
Resource List Business and Organization Partners
Advanced Energy Panels (518) 686-9581; windotherm.com
Altamont Program (518) 424-7345; pyhit.com
Arbor Hill Development Corporation (518) 463-9993; firstname.lastname@example.org
CL Construction (518) 330-3033
Capital Region Workforce Development Center capitalworkforce.org
Energy Management Solutions emsenergy.com
Lowe’s (518) 956-9407; lowes.com
Schenectady Youth Build (518) 831-9121; neparentchild.org
Workforce Development Institute (518) 272-3500; wdiny.org Additional Resources
Gallagher Solar System; gallagherusa.com
Occupational and Environmental Health Center; occmedgroup.com
Empire Solar Store; empiresolarstore.com