By MARCO POGGIO
More than two hundred workers celebrated Tuesday the completion of a 120,000 square foot concrete platform built over the railroad tracks leading in and out New York Pennsylvania Station.
The $300 million deck is part of a real estate project, Brookfield Manhattan West, which will cover a 5.4 million square foot and cost $4.5 billion.
“I am so proud,” said Sabrina Kanner, the Brookfield vice president responsible for design and construction.
“We had no major accidents on this job, which was one of our goals,” Kanner told the Brooklyn News Service, putting an emphasis on the safety record of the project.
To make the ceremony more appetizing, Brookfield ordered a 110-foot long hero and placed it near the podium.
The length of the sandwich matched the one of the “The Launcher,” the 2.1 million yellow pound bridge crane used to position the 16 bridge spans forming the platform. Each one of those spans weighed roughly the equivalent of six subway cars together.
The titanic enterprise took about two years to get done.
“I am glad we did it,” said Mike Collins, an Irish-born construction worker for Atlantic Reinforcing Concrete, one of the companies pouring cement into the site.
He described his job as something of a Spartan life:
“We start at 7 and we hit it hard. That pretty much what it is, all day,” Collins said about a day at his job, which he has been doing for nearly 20 years.
The second phase of Manhattan West will begin in early 2015, with the construction of a 60-story residential tower with 800 units and plenty of high-end amenities, to be ready in 2017.
About 38,500 cubic yards of rock had to been removed in the initial phase of the project. Then, a sophisticated system of beams and custom made machines permitted the positioning of all the segments composing the deck structure.
Manhattan West was a real mechanical and human ordeal. Some workers found it easy to describe it:
“Hell,” said Dave Dermody, 42, who knows very well the fatiguing of breaking rocks for an entire day amid clouds of dust and sever noise.
The 130 decibels his jackhammer produces are just as loud as a marching band of 200 members.
“It’s hard work. I don’t know how we do it,” Dermody said, admitting how his job does not allow him to stay up too late at night.
The schedule of a construction worker is rather austere. Wake-up before dawn, work until six in the evening, shower, dinner, bed. Repeat.
Nate Scott, 42, said he got up every day at 4:30.
“It’s hectic,” said Scott, for 20 years an employee at Turner Construction, one of the contractors involved in the project.
“I am happy with what I do,” said Elio Ruiz, 51, who has been working in construction yards since 1981. Just five more years, he said, and he will be ready to retire.
Like many in his crew, Ruiz is a member of 6A Local Laborers’ Local 6A Concrete Worker, an affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) representing more than 800,000 workers employed in construction.
As part of Manhattan Manhattan West, Brookfield will also build two 67-story office towers, which will add a distinctive mark to the city’s skyline, a five-star hotel and a two-acre park that will have public access.
Kanner also expressed her gratitude for Rezzani de Eccher, the Italian civil engineering company that designed “The Launcher” ad hoc for the project, and brought experienced man power from Italy to assemble it and operate it.
The Italian and the American flags could be seen flying together in the freezing wind, symbolizing an old time friendship that carried on for decades in work yards all over the country.
“Most my friends are Italian,” said Collins laughing, “All rugby people, you know.”