Area residents voice concerns and hopes (with photo gallery)

Capital Region residents interviewed last week in downtown Schenectady expressed concern and unhappi

Jermaine Allen just got a job as a stock person at the new ShopRite in Niskayuna.

After two years of unemployment, he said he’s happy to be working again. But he remains concerned about the economy and the overall direction of the country.

“The government doesn’t have our best interests at heart,” said Allen, a 34-year-old Schenectady resident with a 2-year-old son, while walking on Jay Street in Schenectady. “The bigwigs are set. They have their money. The middle class is becoming poorer.”

He said he supports the protesters on Wall Street, who have been camped out in a park since late September as part of an effort to draw attention to income inequality and corporate greed, among other things. “They’re bringing important issues to the forefront and saying that they’re not going to take it anymore,” he said. “They’re taking matters into their own hands.

“We need to start relying on ourselves and our community to jumpstart the economy.”

Capital Region residents interviewed last week in downtown Schenectady expressed concern and unhappiness about the economy, the direction of the country and the federal government. They said they were worried about unemployment, and an overall lack of job growth. Some of them expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and said that movement’s slogan — “We are the 99 percent” — resonated with them. But people were also hopeful, saying they believed things could and would get better.

Patrice Jordan, 56, of Niskayuna, said she is frustrated with the economy and state of the country.

Jordan was laid off from her job teaching math at Albany High School and has been substitute-teaching to make ends meet. But she said she can’t sub as often as she would like because there are so many unemployed teachers vying for those jobs.

“To pay my taxes right now is such a hardship,” Jordan said. “I’m running out of money.”

Support for protesters

Jordan said she supports the protesters on Wall Street. “I like their message,” she said. “I’m a Democrat, and a lot of my Republican friends say they’re just college kids with nothing to do. But they’re peaceful, and they’re speaking their minds, and maybe they’ll be the generation that helps all of us. … The corporations are not paying their fair share, and they are controlling everything.”

Jordan said she supported Obama in 2008 and would continue to support him. “I don’t think there’s a better choice.” But she was critical of Obama’s education policies and of his approach to job creation. “They’re throwing money away,” she said. “They’re trying to create jobs by rebuilding infrastructure, but those are construction jobs. What about jobs for people who use their brains for work?”

“We’re heading in the wrong direction,” Jordan continued. “We need more jobs. Not everyone can be an IT person or work in a plant. Not everybody can go to college. That’s just a fact of life.”

Jordan said she is having a more difficult time finding a job because she’s an older worker.

“There’s ageism going on,” she said. “I’m so frustrated. I’m willing to work. Every person I’ve ever worked with says I’m hardworking.”

Ashok Mirpuri, 64, isn’t happy with the economy, either.

“It’s bad,” said Mirpuri, who has owned the shop Paisa Miser on Jay Street for more than 30 years. “The corporate world has changed the whole structure of things. The economy is good in India and China because there are jobs there. We don’t have manufacturing jobs here. We should have thought about this a long time ago.” He said he supports the Wall Street protesters. “They’re making a statement,” he said. “They’re letting people know that something bad is going on. That’s a good statement to make.”

Mirpuri said the U.S. needs to focus on its own problems rather than problems in other countries.

“We need to put our needs first,” Mirpuri said. “With all the wars, there’s too much going on.” He said that the federal government should put people to work fixing the country’s crumbling infrastructure. “There’s plenty of work that could be done,” he said.

Tough for business

The recession and sluggish recovery have made it tough for small-business owners such as himself, Mirpuri said. “It’s hard to be here,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough that I’ve been able to hang in there.”

But he said he is optimistic.

“This is a wonderful country,” said Mirpuri, who is originally from India. “It’s the best country in the world. There’s no doubt about it. I’m hopeful, because that’s what this country is about. You work hard, and hope for the best.” As for Obama, “he’s having a tough time,” he said. “I don’t know whether he’s right or wrong, but every president wants to do what’s best for the country. The parties have to come together.”

Frank Jackson, a 77-year-old military veteran from Albany who described himself as “enjoying my pension,” said his main concern is unemployment and that his nephew and many of his friends are struggling to find work. “We need jobs,” he said. He also said that veterans need better health care and that the U.S. military needs to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I don’t think we should be over there,” said Jackson while he waited for the bus.

As to whether he would vote for Obama again, “I’m not sure.”

Amy Karas, a 32-year-old resident of Troy, said she has been unemployed for more than a year after she lost her job providing private home care.

Initially being unemployed was stressful, Karas said. But then she decided to change her attitude. “It’s not something I’m stressing out about right now,” she said as she walked to the post office. “I’m hearing that there are a lot of new job openings that will help people get back on their feet.”

Karas said she is registered to vote but that it had been a long time since she had cast a ballot for anyone and she wasn’t sure she felt like voting for Obama. “I’m undecided there,” she said, adding that she considers herself conservative.

“I’m hoping for a better direction [for the country],” Karas said. “I’m hoping for a world where there are no worries for anybody.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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