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"The Future Green Republic of the South Bronx"

Editors’ Note: This is a condensed version of an article that appeared in the New York Daily News on Monday, November 14, 2005.

Omar Freilla, 31, is executive director of the Green Worker Cooperatives, a South Bronx group that wants to turn the 13,000 tons of construction waste generated in the city each year – much of it trucked through the Bronx on its way to landfills – into jobs for local residents. He wants to open a worker-owned center where construction debris can be recycled and resold. According to Freilla:"We're talking about creating jobs that empower people. It's like a worker-owned Home Depot for used stuff. Just about everything from concrete to floorboards to kitchen and bathroom fixtures can be recycled."

Omar envisions a warehouse space in the South Bronx where workers can sort through several tons of debris a day for recyclable materials."These trucks come through here every day and what do we, the folks in the South Bronx, get out of it?" he asked. "All we get is the diesel exhaust from the trucks. It's time we see if we can get some jobs from them." Still to be overcome is the high cost of land in the city. Freilla, who has a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta and a master's from Miami University of Ohio, estimates it could cost $10 a square foot to rent space for a recycling facility. At that price, he figures it would cost about $900,000 to get the center up and running. He has already raised the first $50,000. On November 11, Freilla and the Green Worker Cooperatives were named among the 2005 winners of the Union Square "Grassroots Activists" awards. Each winner receives a $50,000 prize. "Now we only need another $850,000," a grinning Freilla said. He hopes to have the center open by next year, perhaps as the anchor business in a Recycling Industrial Park he envisions for the South Bronx.

For more information, contact Omar Freilla, Director, Green Worker Cooperatives; PO Box 304, West Farms Station, Bronx, NY 10460; t: (718) 554-6324 / f: (718) 554-3823 /

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