Hoping to elevate suspended careers, hundreds of people camped out, literally, for days waiting for a chance at jobs as elevator mechanics. And this morning, the hopeful job-seekers will end their wait and get to meet with leaders of Local 3 of the mechanics' union.
The union put word out that it would be distributing 750 applications in Long Island City starting Monday morning, causing a mini tent city to to take shape on the city streets.
Jeremy Fernandez, who's been unemployed for months, was first in line when he showed up Friday at 4:30am. Does he think being in front of a line that snakes around nine city blocks will improve the likelihood of success?
"I don't think it decreases my chances," he said.
The union's offering a guaranteed minimum 75 four year apprenticeships, each of which pays at least $14 an hour. Many of those will lead to full elevator repair jobs, with earnings of up to $40 an hour.
"You only get an opportunity like this once in a lifetime so you have to take advantage of it," said 18 year-old Matthew Fowler, who stood in line starting Saturday at noon, sleeping over two nights in a tent pitched on 36th Street.
"I look at it as otherwise he has to go to college and then get a job and the way the economy goes, who knows what the opportunity would be for that? This is a chance to get into a great career," added Fowler's stepfather Christian Kovac, who kept him company.
Indeed for many of the almost exclusively male crowd, waiting was a family affair. Wives, parents and friends showed up periodically to support the would-be applicants.
"They brought us food, games, things to keep us occupied," said Vinny Deriso, an unemployed construction worker from Suffolk County who joined the line Saturday evening. What does he think of his chances of landing work? "Better than if I didn't come here," he said.