New York City is much more than just the “city that never sleeps;” it’s also a city that can’t sit still. Artists who hope to capture a precise rendering of Manhattan’s landscape have to sketch it about as quickly as Greenwich Village’s caricature artists do of hurried tourists looking for a souvenir.
Although the city never seems quite satisfied with its appearance, it also imposes stringent rules and regulations, complicating any construction — or demolition — makeover.
Mazzocchi Wrecking of East Hanover, NJ, is not only an expert in the demolition field with more than 45 years of experience, it also is adept at sifting through — then tailoring its demolition jobs — some of the most complex regulations in the country. The company is putting that knowledge to use on a massive project on the east side of midtown Manhattan where it is razing a Consolidated-Edison plant — one that was in operation as recently as eight months ago.
The $20-million project covers approximately 5.5 acres and is bordered by First Avenue, between 38th Street to 40th Street, and FDR Boulevard on the East River. The project is not only extensive in area, but also in scope of what needs to be demolished.
“When we first looked at the outside of the buildings, we thought that they were large, impressive buildings, but manageable. And when we went inside, we were even more impressed with the number of boilers and turbines, steel and I-beams,” said Ed King, second vice president of Mazzocchi Wrecking, who has been the company for 17 years.
“Prior to starting demolition a few months ago, we walked through the buildings to get an idea of what we were up against, but we weren’t allowed to walk anywhere without two escorts watching every move because of safety and security issues,” King said. “When the buildings were turned over to us, we were still learning about the different areas because they are so large. At one point in one of the buildings, when I walked with a Con-Ed employee who had worked there for more than 25 years, he took me up a back staircase and said to me, ’I’d never been over here in all my time at Con-Ed.’ I thought to myself, Wow, this could wind up being among the biggest jobs we ever worked on.”
At first, Mazzocchi began taking down some of the smaller structures scattered about the Con-Ed plant. Lately, though, the company has begun taking down two buildings — called Waterside 1 and Waterside 2 because they sit virtually on the shore of the East River on FDR Boulevard — that are 250 ft. tall with smokestacks topping each.
“The stacks are being dismantled by hand,” King said. “There are access ladders to them and the crews climb up to the stacks, which takes about 20 minutes every morning, to get to the top. There’s a ring scaffolding that circles the stacks. The inside of them is brick with a layer of gunnite … the outside is steel. The demolition is almost entirely being done by hand. The debris, as the stacks are being dismantled, is dropped inside the stacks into the building.”
Why is it being done this way, rather than using heavy equipment?
“It’s New York City,” answered King. “Dismantling in New York City has its own challenges. Here, you have to dismantle buildings by hand down to between 25 and 40 feet. The city looks at how close a road is to the job site, and if you’re right on the road, the structure has to be brought down to as low as 25 feet.”
Then, even scheduling work can be a challenge in New York City. “Here’s what can make things really crazy,” King began. “When we want to do work on a Saturday, the City of New York doesn’t just say that you can work on Saturdays … On Thursdays, we call the Department of Business Affairs because they grant permission to work on the weekend, but they do not tell you whether or not you can until 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. We’ll have crew members not able to plan their weekends until the last minute.”
Another challenge that Mazzocchi must surmount is the “heaviness” of the building.
“In terms of the beams and the iron inside the building, it’s very heavy,” King said. “Even up high the buildings are thick. Most times it’s only thicker at the bottom. In these buildings [Waterside 1 and 2], when you get up to 190 feet, it’s actually thicker there because of the support for the stacks. In total, the buildings have an estimated 80,000 and 100,000 tons of iron inside.”
Mazzocchi will haul the majority of the iron to a scrap dealer based in Newark, NJ. “We’re taking the material through the Lincoln Tunnel … it’s a pretty direct shot to Newark.”
The entire demolition project, which will make way for a park and housing, is slated for completion in 18 to 22 months.
“Right now, we’re not even in full-swing and we have around 50 men there with 10 to 15 pieces of equipment working. At full-swing we’ll probably be around 75 to 80 crew members,” King said. “This is just in-between of what we can do while the asbestos is being removed, mainly in the basement levels. The general contractor, Worth Construction, has subbed that out.”
For equipment (once all buildings have been taken down to between 25 ft. and 40 ft.), Mazzocchi will employ a host of Daewoo and Hitachi excavators, as well as a Genesis GXP1500R shear, which it purchased from Hoffman Equipment, based in Piscataway, NJ, specifically for this project.
Currently, the Genesis shear is mounted on Mazzocchi’s Hitachi EX800, but King added, he also planned to use it with the company’s Daewoo 470 excavator.
“Right now, though, we’re using some of the smaller equipment, such as our Daewoo V55 rubber-tired excavator, until we get the structures down low enough and away from the streets. Then we’ll bring in the bigger pieces of equipment,” King said.
With this much equipment, manpower and acreage of demolition, safety, King said, is the overriding concern for him and Mazzocchi.
“Safety is the number-one challenge we face,” he said. “We have a tight timeframe, and these buildings are very dangerous, if you’re not paying attention, especially when we begin having 75 to 80 men working here. Everything has to be coordinated. When we’re dropping the stack, we need to know where all are men are at all times.
“At Mazzocchi, we always have in place the same safety philosophy, but this isn’t an everyday plant or project,” King said. “Once, maybe twice, in the life of a demolition company does it get to do a project of this magnitude where the whole plant was just up and running and then it’s suddenly going to be taken down. Then, of course, it’s in the middle of Manhattan, too.”