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The JPL Legacy: A Journey of Entrepreneurship, Growth

Thu October 05, 2023 - Northeast Edition #21
Jessica Bueno – SPECIAL TO CEG

The JPL team poses with Joseph Pizzirusso, vice president; John Pizzirusso, president; and Chris Pizzirusso, COO.
The JPL team poses with Joseph Pizzirusso, vice president; John Pizzirusso, president; and Chris Pizzirusso, COO.
The JPL team poses with Joseph Pizzirusso, vice president; John Pizzirusso, president; and Chris Pizzirusso, COO. Hart Island project before. Hart Island project after. (L-R) are Joseph Pizzirusso, Joe Barbara (Hoffman territory manager), Chris Pizzirusso and John Pizzirusso. JPL working in New York City with the Volvo EWR150. With Volvo’s zero-tail   swing feature, the EWR 150 can work in the tightest of places. Another tight job completed by the EWR150. JPL’s Volvo EC250 crawler excavator loading trucks. Joseph, Chris and John Pizzirusso are ready to take on the future with the JPL team.

Based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., J. Pizzirusso Landscaping Corp., commonly known as JPL, started as a landscaping business. However, over the years, JPL has expanded its scope and diversified its services to cater to the five boroughs of New York. Despite its name suggesting a focus on landscaping, JPL now offers a wide range of high-quality services to meet the diverse needs of its clientele.

Founded in 1968 by Anthony Pizzirusso, J. Pizzirusso Landscaping Corp., has a rich history that dates back to its humble beginnings. In its early years, the company primarily dedicated its efforts to residential landscape maintenance and construction.

"I remember my two brothers and I coming out of school, we were always working here as part time, summer job, after school and whenever we had off, you know…We would come help my dad", recalled Joseph Pizzirusso, vice president of JPL.

After dedicating a significant amount of time to the family business, the three Pizzirusso brothers were well-equipped to assume leadership roles in the year 2000, when the senior Pizzirusso chose to take a step back. This was the moment when the company underwent a rebranding and became known as JPL, with John taking on the role of president, Joseph serving as vice president and Chris assuming the position of COO.

The company diversified its operations by venturing into the realm of commercial work. This expansion involved collaborating with general contractors to take on projects, including building parks, such as the notable "MillionTrees NYC" initiative in New York City, which was undertaken in 2004.

"We made the decision to bid on that project, then the company shifted its focus towards other government-related projects," Joseph said.

In due time, JPL transitioned into becoming the prime contractor for major projects that were required by the city. As the company continued to grow, they started bidding on contracts to build city park's infrastructure, rather than solely focusing on landscaping. This shift allowed them to assume the role of the general contractor for these projects. Eventually this experience led JPL to expand into civil/heavy construction work.

Taking On Multiple Projects

Currently, the organization is actively engaged in various significant projects. These include the Street Trees initiative, as well as the development of parks and playgrounds for the New York City Parks Department. Additionally, the organization is partnering with the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to undertake a major civil project called "East Side Coast Resiliency." This project aims to revamp the Manhattan sewer system and mitigate flood risks caused by rising sea levels in lower Manhattan.

A little under two years ago, JPL took over the massive Hart Island public cemetery transformation project. During this time, the Island was transferred from the Department of Corrections to the Parks Department where JPL began working on maintenance, record keeping and burials. This is when a new division was created within the company, which focuses on exclusively managing the operations and maintenance of the island.

This was a new undertaking for JPL, which it successfully implemented.

Recently, JPL, in a joint venture with New York Concrete Corp., was awarded the "Gateway – Phase II West Rail Yards" project, which entails building a subway tunnel from 11th Avenue to 12th Avenue.

Hoffman Equipment, Volvo CE Deliver

JPL's and Hoffman Equipment's partnership can be traced back to the early 2000s, when Joseph connected with Territory Sales Manager Joe Barbara. Since 2004, both companies have been working together and continuing to strengthen their partnership.

"We picked Hoffman to start with because we trusted Joe," John Pizzirusso said. "He's always been a straight shooter, he always delivers. Although I've noticed substantial improvements in the parts and service department, Joe has always handled it all and assumed responsibility, so we haven't really interacted too much with the parts and service."

In addition to being highly satisfied with the service provided by Hoffman Equipment, JPL also is a loyal customer to Volvo CE, a brand that Hoffman added to its equipment profile in 2018.

Throughout the years, the company has purchased a total of eight machines from Hoffman, these being: four EWR150E, three EW60E, and one EC250E. JPL values the feedback from its operators, and they have spoken — Volvo Construction Equipment is high on their list when it comes to reliability and comfort.

Operators find the EWR150E perfect for work in the city due to its zero-tail swing, which complies with city regulations. The production JPL's operators achieve due to Volvo's speed, power and performance make Volvo Excavators their first choice.

The stars of the fleet are the rubber tire excavators, as Volvo CE is renowned for its wide range of such excavators.

"We get a lot of feedback from our operators, obviously," Chris Pizzirusso said. "You know, we're not out there as much using the equipment everyday like they do. The dependability and the warranty is amazing…And the fact that Joe answers his phone at 10 o'clock at night is amazing also."

Standing Out From Competition

According to Project Manager Dionel Lopez, one of the advantages that sets JPL apart from others is the fact that it is a family-owned company. Since its establishment, the brothers who own the company have fostered a synergistic working environment that extends to the entire team. This dynamic contributes to JPL's distinctiveness and success, he said.

"After we are awarded a project, Joe and Chris personally visit the site in order to gain a deep understanding of its requirements. Together, they develop a comprehensive plan and assemble the right team to ensure successful completion of the task at hand," Lopez added.

It is clear that JPL has a strong sense of family values and they run their business according to those family values, which is one of the strengths JPL recognizes and has in common with Hoffman. Hoffman still operates as a family-owned business with more than 100 years of history.

"You are not just a number at Hoffman. We value our customers as people and approach our relationships with our customers according to those family values that are so deeply rooted in Hoffman's culture," said Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Hoffman Equipment Eric Seikel.

In addition to its strong leadership, JPL distinguishes itself by embracing challenges of all sizes.

"We target more complex work. We've done curb and sidewalk contract for the city of New York, whether it's a road reconstruction job, or a wetland restoration project, or a subway tunnel, or Hart Island. They're more out of the box, complex projects, but we are able to do them," Joseph Pizzirusso said.

The company presently has four very distinct divisions with more than 200 employees and growing. Whether it's small-scale projects within the city or large-scale highway work, JPL is always ready to take on new opportunities. The company's commitment to growth is evident through its collaborations with various agencies such as DDC, EDC, DEP, DOT, NYSOPRHP, MTA, and Amtrak, showcasing its willingness to expand and forge new partnerships.

Looking at the Future

Despite the ever-changing nature of the industry, JPL is prepared to adapt to future developments while maintaining its close-knit, family-oriented approach.

Chris Pizzirusso expressed his desire for the next generation, including his own children, to become involved in the business and contribute to its growth.

"All of our children, our boys, my youngest daughter wants to be an engineer, I'd love to see them in the business and growing from that. That would be my goal," he said.

JPL will continue its trajectory of growth, just as it has done over the past decades. The company will embrace new challenges and projects while staying up-to-date of the ever-evolving times and advancements in technology. With partnerships like Hoffman Equipment and Volvo Construction Equipment providing the next generation of heavy construction equipment, JPL's potential is limitless.

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