I was on the move, looking for the best
opportunity,” she says. “I thought, what better place to
learn than the number one city in the world?”
Fourteen years later, she continues to learn on
structures that hold a place in the city’s cultural
life and collective mythology. At her first Tishman
assignment, she did so well as project engineer on
the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan
that she won the 2005 Women in Construction
Achievement Award. More awards followed as she
worked her way up in the company — assistant
project manager, project manager, director, vice
president, and now first vice president.
My job is to take a very difficult problem
and find a very simple solution,” she says. “We
coordinate everybody. We monitor the contractors,
and oversee the schedule, the money and the
quality. The safety of the building is a top priority
I want to be able to sleep at night.”
One morning in August, she takes a visitor
to the Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue
and East 66
Street, 28 blocks north of her second-
floor apartment in Murray Hill. The Armory,
built in the 1860s to train Civil War recruits, had
deteriorated badly under the state of New York’s
ownership. A nonprofit took over its management
in 2006, and raised private funds to transform the
aging structure, with its grand 85-foot ceiling and
sprawling wooden floor, into a venue of the sort able
to host events that harken back to its storied past,
like the grand military ball in 1957 attended by
The building’s steel superstructure, which
curved upwards to support the ceiling, needed to be
shored up. Kwan headed a team that helped devise
a strategy to reinforce the structure by welding
strips of new steel to the old. A suspended platform
was built for welders to work on the ceiling steel,
while performances took place down below during
A similar, yet more demanding, challenge arose
during the rehabilitation of the steel superstructure
of Carnegie Hall, which includes a residence tower
and the world-renowned performance space.
When I was learning the piano, my teacher told
me: ‘If you practice enough, and do the best you can,
one day you will be performing at Carnegie Hall; the
sky is your limit.’ Sometimes it feels like I’m living in
a fairy tale story. But then it’s back to the steel.”
Rebuilding Grand Central
Steel has loomed large in Robert Saraceni’s civil
engineering journey as well. Soon after graduation,
he headed west with Chemical Construction to
help build an ammonia plant in Pocatello, Idaho.
P R E S E R V I N G H I S T O R Y
Robert Saraceni ’70
He returned to New York to build the Shoreham
nuclear power plant on Long Island’s north shore.
By the time the plant was completed, however,
anti-nuclear opponents had triumphed, and the
plant never went to full power.
Saraceni then joined the construction
management department of Metro-North, the
commuter-rail system that serves New York’s
northern suburbs and Connecticut. His first
assignment was the Park Avenue tunnel, the
massive underground facility from 57
Street that serves three commuter lines that
converge as they funnel the trains south to Grand
Central. The project required construction crews to
lower the tunnel floor by a foot, to accommodate
new lighting, utilities and signals.
We did one track at
a time because the
railroad had to keep
railroad came first
and the construction
came second. We
had to keep
the trains running,”
Sandy Ginsberg ’54, HD ’07
It took almost five years to complete.
We did one track at a time because the railroad
had to keep operating during construction,” recalls
Saraceni, 63, who resides in Huntington, N.Y., with
his wife, Carol, a Potsdam State student he met while
Saraceni became Grand Central’s deputy
superintendent in 1995, just as the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, Metro-North’s parent, was
embarking on a $200 million renovation of the terminal.
It was an ambitious project — restoring elements of the
building to its 19
century grandeur, and updating it to
appeal to 21
century commuters by creating spaces for
restaurants and boutiques.
The project included restoring the terminal’s
ceiling, which featured a turquoise sky with an array
of constellations depicted across the expanse. The
ceiling was so blackened by decades of soot that
restoration experts first thought they’d have to repaint
it. It turned out all it needed was a good washing. The
constellations’ stars, meanwhile, were lit with fiber
optics when the restored ceiling was unveiled, which
made the stars visible from anywhere on the terminal’s
marble floor. But that technology generated too much
heat. They changed then to LED lights.
The project also brought the installation of air-
conditioning for the cavernousmain floor, as well as the
halls and lower levels.The contractor took the normal vent
ducts and added air handlers and seven steamabsorption
chillers, which are served by five cooling towers on the
terminal’s roof, tucked behind the clock statuary.
The steam chillers will now be replaced with
energy-saving electrical centrifugal chillers, which
have higher capacity, and greater efficiency, under
a $20 million project with the New York Power
Authority that Saraceni put in place before his
retirement in March. The power authority put up
the money, which will be repaid over 10 years as the
railroad continues to pay its utility bills as if it was
using the old, costlier chillers.
The utility costs stay the same, and the energy
savings are used to pay back NYPA,” says Saraceni.
You need to be creative these days.”
Sandy Ginsberg’s storied career in construction
management involved him with much of New
York City’s rich architectural history. Along with
the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Ginsberg
supervised the restoration of the Central Park Zoo,
the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center, the
American Museum of Natural History, and Grand
Central Terminal, among others.
The Ellis Island complex, gateway for millions of
immigrants, was a mess when restoration began. The
building was abandoned by the Coast Guard in 1954.
Broken windows throughout had created substantial
The place had been empty for 30 years when our restoration team arrived,”
says Ginsberg. “It was a total team effort between the constructionmanager,
architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer and the National Park Service,
who had oversight of the Island. We developed schemes for drying out the main
building and preventing further damage to the water-logged structure. We
worked on every single area, using modernmaterials, so that each room and the
Great Hall would appear as they did at the turn of the 20
What I am most proud of was that my top two assistants on the project
were Clarkson grads —Dean Ricci ’74 and Mike Bielawa ’85,” Ginsberg adds.
During the restoration, a large Clarkson banner hung in Ginsberg’s on-site
office, announcing the presence of the Clarkson delegation.
For his efforts on Ellis Island and his work promoting Scandinavian culture
and heritage, Ginsberg was honoredwith the Ellis IslandMedal in 1994.
As construction manager, Ginsberg was known for his ability to get
along, and motivate the people involved in the project. “So many things
can go wrong that you have no control over, but when things go right, it’s
an incredible experience,” says Ginsberg.
An avid New York football fan, Ginsberg also was construction manager
for Giants Stadium, which opened with great acclaim in New Jersey’s
Meadowlands in 1976. The Mara family, who owned the team, was so
impressed with the stadium’s completion on budget and ahead of schedule
that Ginsberg was invited to the team’s training camp to meet the players.
For Ginsberg, the experience was a labor of love. So was the
restoration of the Children’s Carousel in Central Park.
The friendships I made at Clarkson have lasted 62 years ,” says Ginsberg.
I got a marvelous education so when I went out into the professional world
I was fully prepared. The experience I had at Clarkson is still extremely
meaningful to me. It’s where I first learned to defy convention!”
F O R T I F Y I N G I N F R A S T R U C T U R E