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You Bet Your Glass: August 2012

The Big Apple building tour


August 20, 2012
By Frank Fulton

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During my almost three decades of tenure at Fulton Windows, business took me to New York City on at least a dozen occasions.

During my almost three decades of tenure at Fulton Windows, business took me to New York City on at least a dozen occasions. With the exception of getting to watch my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (a game the Leafs lost, of course), I’ve got to admit that I hated almost every minute I had to spend there.

Fulton supplied windows to about 30 buildings in the city over the years, with a number of them exceeding 40 storeys, so our projects there represented a pretty big chunk of our business. A lot of time was spent in meetings with developers, architects, and consultants, and on job sites with general contractors, window contractors, and their installation sub-contractors.

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Doing business in New York is not for the faint of heart. When they speak of swimming with the sharks, they are referring to people in the construction field in New York, and they lick their chops when little Canadian minnows jump into their water. They have actually perfected the techniques of screwing people over into an art form. My experiences there created a dislike for New York City and everyone in it.

Considering my sentiments for the place, I actually surprised myself when I accepted an invitation from Barry Zigelstein of Crowntech Glass and Aluminum and Noel Marsella of Royaltech Glazing to go on a summer extended weekend excursion to New York with the significant others. I suppose that time actually does heal all wounds. Although I’d been there a number of times, I never once did any touristy stuff. They convinced me that it would be fun and that we could get cheap flights. (For future reference, don’t let cheap flights fool you. You need bags full of money to last in NYC.) Tony Menecola of Applewood Glass was a last-minute addition to our entourage so off we went as a group of eight.

We stayed at the Bowery Hotel and at first all I could think of was about running into street gangs with characters like “Slip” Mahoney and “Sach” Jones. Times have changed over the years and so have districts, and the Bowery is now a trendy upscale address. It felt very safe. Maybe the 34,000 uniformed police officers in New York City have something to do with that sense of safety.

Besides doing a lot of eating and walking around in sweltering heat, taking a water taxi ride around Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, and watching the Toronto Blue Jays implode at Yankee Stadium, a highlight of my NYC tour was a visit to the Empire State Building. If you’ve spent the better part of your life around construction, you can’t help but be blown away by this imposing historical marvel and the amazing feat of building it.

The ESB was the tallest building in the world from 1931 to 1970, when its 1,250 feet and 103 floors were surpassed by construction of the World Trade Centre.

Construction of the ESB started on March 17, 1930, not long after the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929, referred to as Black Tuesday, the precursor to the Great Depression. Work was hard to find. The initial budget for construction of the building was $43 million but due to the tough times, the project came in at $25,679,772.

During peak times, there were as many as 3,500 workers on site at a time making about $15 per day. They were happy and fortunate to have a job and the construction went on seven days a week. The construction was actually finished well ahead of schedule in one year and 45 days, with framework going up at a pace of about five floors per week. Seven million man-hours went into the building.

The 6,514 steel windows used in the project were supplied by the Hartwell Metal Window Corporation for a total price of $263,324. The glazing of the windows was done by Contractors Glass Company with a crew of eleven glaziers and a foreman at a cost of $98,838. The window caulking cost $44,812. That works out to about $62.50 per window, or $2.50 per square foot.

If you get the opportunity, I would recommend a visit to this historic site. My feelings for New York City have also softened significantly as a result of this recent visit.


Frank Fulton is president of Fultech Fenestration Consulting. He has been in the industry for 30 years and can be reached via e-mail at fultech.fc@gmail.com.


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