fairness and respect are the keys to bringing in her
jobs on time, on budget. It takes toughness too,
especially when you are a woman in the male-
dominated construction world.
You have to earn respect on every job,” says
Kwan, first vice president, civil and structural
engineering, for Tishman Construction Corp.
Kwan is leading a new generation of Clarkson
civil engineers into the world of New York City
historic preservation. She follows in the footsteps of
Sandy Ginsberg ’54, HD ’07, construction manager
for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island restorations,
and Robert Saraceni ’70, who worked for a quarter
century at Metro-North Commuter Railroad,
including his final seven years as Grand Central
Terminal’s general superintendent.
Each made their mark on monumental
projects, which had their share of monumental
challenges. Ginsberg took on the Statue of Liberty
renovation in the mid-1980s, knowing full well
that the deadline — July 4, 1986 — was inviolable
because an international flotilla of Tall Ships had
been scheduled years before to arrive that day.
Saraceni helped lead the redevelopment of
Grand Central while the transit hub maintained
operation for 750,000 riders each day.
Kwan, meanwhile, broke through the glass
ceiling in the construction management world,
rising up with her effervescent personality and
her ability to help solve knotty issues that arise
in redevelopment projects, such as the Seventh
Regiment Armory, Carnegie Hall and
The Plaza Hotel.
At the Plaza, her team figured out how to install
three block-long columns of steel trusses to support
the 21-story building, which added a second-floor
swimming pool and penthouse in the reconstruction
project. The gut-rehab transformed the 930,000-square-
foot landmark into a complex with 282 hotel rooms
and 182 condominiums, which have sold for as much
as $50 million.
The trusses were so long we needed two trucks
to transport each of them,” she says one morning over
breakfast at The Plaza’s Palm Court. “We shut down
Street one morning at 2 a.m. and slid the trusses
through a second-floor window.”
Maggie Kwan ’97 is first vice president, civil and structural engineering, for Tishman Construction Corp. in Manhattan.
Her work as the construction manager overseeing major renovations of New York’s historic landmarks has earned her
professional success and awards, including the Professional Women in Construction Salute to Women of Achievement
and the American Institute of Steel Construction Award (2011). Earlier this year, she was named one of the
Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business by the Asian American Business Development Center. Kwan is also working
with Clarkson alumnus Robert LiMandri ’87, Commissioner for the New York City Buildings Department since 2008, on a
citywide building codes revision committee.
Kwan lives by advice she received early in her
career: “Dress like a woman, act like a lady, think
like a man, and work like a dog.”
On job sites, she shows up in a long-sleeved
shirt, work boots and jeans. At meetings, she’ll arrive
in a well-tailored dress and heels. She calls herself
an “upstate girl,” emigrating from Hong Kong to the
Albany area in 1980. She first landed a job at a Los
Angeles engineering firm, then returned to New York
to work at the state’s Department of Transportation.
But she was soon diving back into the job market.
In 1998, she’d lined up two interviews. One was back in
Hong Kong building the latest Disneyland resort. She
also had an interview at Tishman, one of New York
City’s pre-eminent construction management firms,
which was purchased in 2010 by AECOMTechnology
Corp., one of the world’s largest engineering and
F O R T I F Y I N G I N F R A S T R U C T U R E
They’ll Take Manhattan
For more than 50 years, Clarkson’s civil engineers have been leading
the restoration and rebuilding of New York City’s iconic landmarks.
AND THEY ARE STILL AT IT.
By David McKay Wilson
Maggie (May Yee) Kwan ’97, the construction
manager for myriad New York City landmark
restoration projects, says
You have to
earn respect on
every job,” says
Kwan, first vice