Posted on Nov 30, 2009
John M Grau
The week before Thanksgiving, I participated in the topping-off ceremony for the Beekman Tower in New York City. This Frank Gehry-designed apartment building will be the second tallest residential structure in North American and the tallest in NYC. But it came close to being much shorter.
Earlier this year the developer, Forest City Ratner, decided to halt construction at the 40th floor. Due to economic conditions, developers all over the city were making decisions to curtail or cut back construction.
That’s when New York City contractors and building trades unions went to work to save their jobs. Together, they forged an innovative project labor agreement that knocked anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent off their labor costs. NECA member, David Pinter of Zwicker Electric, was instrumental in the process. Zwicker is also the electrical contractor for Beekman Tower.
As a result of the PLA, high-rise construction in New York was restarted, and Beekman Tower reached its planned 76-story height. The NEBF provided part of the financing for the $1 billion plus structure.
NECA and IBEW officials at both the local and national level were on hand for the topping-off ceremony. Developer Bruce Ratner was profuse in his praise for the cooperation he received from the unions and contractors, and he cited NECA, IBEW, and NEBF in particular.
The Beekman Tower is a very visible and tangible reminder of what labor-management cooperation can achieve.
As a side note, my hotel in New York was located directly across the street from Ground Zero, the former World Trade Center site. I’ve been there a few times since 9/11 and it’s always a bit of a shock to see this vast empty space in the middle of Lower Manhattan.
When I checked into the hotel, the front desk clerk warned me that construction was going on around the clock and there might be some noise. From my 40th story window, I looked right down on the 16-acre construction site. It was well lighted. In one corner, the steel for the Freedom Tower was already a few stories above grade, while nearby earth was still being moved to prepare the foundations for other buildings.
I got up a couple times during the night to see what was going on. It wasn’t the noise that drew me to the window. In some ways, I felt that it was my solemn duty to watch the rebuilding process. Even in the middle of the night, recovery from one of the greatest disasters on American soil was taking place.