Milstein Hall project to employ more than 200

January 9, 2010

The construction of Milstein Hall will employ more than 200 trade workers on the site during the two years the $52 million project is built.

Since breaking ground last June, the project has helped boost the regional construction industry, employing subcontractors and union workers from Ithaca to Rochester. Seventeen subcontractors have been hired to work on the project, and those companies in turn are employing other firms for specialized work on the site.

At least 90 percent of the workers building the three-level glass and concrete structure are from Central New York, and the majority of them are members of local and regional unions, says Mike Wilkinson, construction manager for Cornell's Division of Project Design and Construction.

"It's keeping a fair amount of my people busy," says Frank Paolangeli, owner of Paolangeli Construction in Ithaca, which has excavated the site, shored up the foundations beneath Sibley and Rand halls, and will prepare the utilities for Milstein Hall.

Norm Aidun, project executive for Welliver McGuire Inc., of Montour Falls, the construction manager for Milstein Hall, points out that besides the trades workers employed on the site, the project is generating work for dozens of other people, including truck drivers who transport materials, mail carriers who deliver documents, and suppliers of copy machines for on-site trailers.

Work on the 47,000-square foot building is continuing through the winter, with at least 50 people expected to remain on site through March. The workforce will peak at about 125 by next summer, when the steel framework of the building is erected.

The first phase of the project — installing the caissons and underpinning the ground beneath Rand and Sibley halls — is nearly complete. Construction crews are now installing the foundations for Milstein Hall and the walls of the building are beginning to take shape.

All of the companies building Milstein Hall are based in New York State except for Industries Canatel Inc., a steel manufacturer from Quebec, and five of the subcontractors are from Tompkins County. In addition, all of the firms are hiring construction workers from local and regional unions.

The subcontractor with the largest workforce on the project is The Pike Co., a construction firm from Rochester. Jason Orr, the project superintendent for Pike, travels an hour and 45 minutes twice a day to the Milstein Hall site from Webster, a Rochester suburb, with one of his foremen. Of the 17 people now working on the project from the company, all but four are from the Ithaca area.

Orr has worked on two other construction projects at Cornell. "I like working down here,” says Orr. “I like the trades people, they're easy to work with."

Michael Deragon, a carpenter from Corning, says there are about 100 people out of work from his local union, which is based in Horseheads and stretches to Albany. Deragon has been more fortunate in finding work: he left a job with a school district in Seneca County when he heard that The Pike Co. needed carpenters to build Milstein Hall.

"The Pike Co. treats me very well," Deragon says. "They will bend over backwards to help you with any situation."

With workers rotating on and off the site, Wilkinson says the impact on the local construction industry is significant. "Overall, $50 million worth of work is happening on this project over two years," he says. "That puts a lot of people to work."

By Sherrie Negrea

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