If you find yourself in a Manhattan rooftop garden or feeling grateful for a quiet green spot in the midst of a busy New York City street, there’s a good chance that Harder Services Inc. is responsible.
Kenneth Harder founded Harder Services in 1922. He began his work after leaving the Navy at the end of World War I. He joined a Danish import-export business that handled rat poison. The firm went under, but Kenneth decided to try his hand at selling the poison to restaurant owners on Long Island and in Westchester. He slowly made a success of this enterprise, gaining clients all through the wealthy suburbs of the time.
By the time he set up in Hempstead, he had extended his business to include termite control, which was a new need in the Northeast that arose with the advent of using heating oil rather than coal in large estates. Hot water pipes from the boiler ran under the floors, creating an ideal condition for termites and they began to infest the houses. Attending to this problem helped Harder Services take off.
Even larger growth took place after World War II when there was a population explosion into the suburbs. Termites and other pests found new homes in the suburban sprawl, and Harder became a household name in the pest control business.
Things changed again when Kenneth’s son Frank came home from the Korean War. He took his place in his father’s business, with his father showing him his desk, telling him his job and his salary and advising him that “if he wanted any more, he’d have to figure it out himself.”
Frank did figure out more, by launching Harder into the tree business. His first tree client was Roosevelt Raceway, and from there he built up an impressive tree service. Eventually, the Long Island Power Authority tapped Harder to do a considerable amount of line clearing for them. These jobs ultimately led to Harder becoming a licensed and certified utility tree care contractor for the Keyspan Energy Group, which does tree work for municipalities and private residences, giving plenty of work to the certified arborists on staff.
Harder also has expanded into commercial and residential landscape design, maintenance and installation, with experienced designers and pesticide applicators working with the customers until they are satisfied. Teams are always on call to handle dangerous weather-related problems as well. In addition, Frank’s sons Hank and Bill, and his grandson Jack, also have joined the team and continue to make the family business grow and change.
These days, Harder does a substantial amount of bid and build park construction in the New York Metropolitan area. Projects in the metro area that Harder has been involved with include the AOL Time Warner building, Columbus Circle and Atlas Park in Queens. The projects Harder takes on are valued from several thousand to several million dollars.
“Our company prides itself on its personalized approach. I bid all of my own projects and I personally oversee each of my projects,” Bill said.
Park construction has led Harder into the specialized area of building roof gardens. These gardens range from 50 to 1 million sq. ft. The City of New York is one of many government agencies that strongly encourages and supports the creation of roof gardens because they are considered energy efficient. The presence of a rooftop garden helps to keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. This “green” aspect of the roof gardens has led to governmental tax breaks for the owners of the buildings.
“Whenever possible we go the extra yard for our customers. The AOL Time Warner building wanted a garden for their 17th floor and they needed to have it completed before the start of the Republican Convention. The job should have taken 10 weeks to complete, they needed it done in six weeks and we had it completed in five weeks. For that job all of our crane work had to be done between midnight and 5 a.m.,” commented Bill.
“We normally get the crane in place, do all the lifts and get the crane out all in one shot. The AOL Time Warner building was one of our longest lifts. We started on a Saturday night at about 8:00 p.m. and didn’t finish until 7:00 a.m. Sunday,” Jack added.
Creating a rooftop garden nearly always means having all of the materials craned up to the roof. Harder typically uses the services of Bay Crane in New York City.
New York City traffic considerations require that the crane work be done at odd hours.
“One thing we worry about is the weight restrictions on the roof. Generally, these rooftops are designed for heavy loads and our materials can all be up there at once. What we do need is a lot of coordination between our guys and everyone else working on the project. Our guys work closely with waterproofers, roofers and electricians on these projects,” Jack said.
Working on rooftops, and on many job sites in the New York Metropolitan area, often requires working in much tighter spaces than working on suburban sites does. To accommodate the space issue, Harder Services recently purchased a Komatsu WA70 wheel loader from Edward Ehrbar Inc., from whom they had made a number of previous purchases. This compact four-wheel drive articulated loader has become a key piece of equipment not only on Harder’s job sites, but also for moving materials in the Harder yard.
“We needed a new loader that was larger than a skid steer and something that would be more compact and maneuverable than a tractor loader backhoe,” explained Bill.
“The articulation and 4-wheel drive of the Komatsu WA70 makes it a perfect match in satisfying our needs. It gives us tremendous maneuverability in restricted areas while still offering good load capacities. An added benefit of using the Komatsu versus our skid steers is that the tires of the Komatsu do far less damage than operating a skid steer in a grassy area. Our operators are impressed with the machine’s power and smooth operating controls. We are also pleased that it has proven to be a very safe machine to operate.”
A number of factors came into play when making the decision to purchase the machine, but one factor was the most important, according to Bill.
“The factors that drove the purchase of the Komatsu included the fact that the machine was the right size and it obviously was well engineered and built with durability in mind,” he said.
“We also like the machine’s serviceability; all of the parts are easily accessible. Finally, there was the fact that Edward Ehrbar was the dealer for the machine. Their sales representative, Chris Thompson, lives just down the street from me and we have known him for a very long time. His credibility is without question and he is always quick to respond whenever we need him.
“Our company has been around for over 80 years and we stand behind the products that we sell 100 percent,” Bill said.
“My grandfather lived by the expression ’the customer is always right.’ Over the last 80 years we have seen a lot of dealerships come and go in the New York City market and Edward Ehrbar has been a constant. There is nothing more frustrating than investing in a piece of equipment and finding out that the dealer you purchased it from is either out of business or has discontinued the line. Ehrbar has been in operation for longer than we have, over 100 years.”
With more than 180 years of experience between them, Harder Services and Edward Ehrbar have built a strong relationship with each other and their customers.
Harder Services’ market area is Nassau County and the five boroughs of New York City. Harder Services has approximately 50 employees. CEG