Building Trades Confident Road, Energy, Sewer Work Will Lead to Busy 2024

By JOHN JORDAN – February 2024

TARRYTOWN—Union building-trades officials in the Lower Hudson Valley express confidence that despite the economic headwinds and challenges of last year, several of the main economic engines that power the construction industry should be significantly fueled this year.

Emerging from a choppy construction season in 2023, when pesky inflation, pricier material costs and supply challenges caused disappointing balance sheets results, the funding from President Biden’s $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is fueling more hope this year.

CONSTRUCTION NEWS spoke with several labor leaders on the prospects for project work in 2024 in the region, and all agreed that the trades should be very busy as the weather gets warmer and large infrastructure projects get under way in the Hudson Valley.

A rendering of the new Patient Care Tower to be built on the campus of Westchester Medical Center. RENDERING COURTESY OF WMC HEALTH

Westchester, Putnam Counties

Jeff Loughlin, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, offered a bright forecast for 2024: “There are a couple of big projects coming out this year. I think we will be flush (with work),” he said.

Among the significant projects set to go this year in Westchester County is the $1.2-billion Hillview Reservoir project in Yonkers, NY. In addition to that project, ECCO III Enterprises of Yonkers announced on Feb. 8 that the ECCO III Skanska JV Team was the apparent low bidder on “Contract HVR-210 Hillview Reservoir Chemical Addition Facilities.” The ECCO/Skanska team was the lower of two bidders at $847.72 million, according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

The project involves updating and modernizing the reservoir’s facilities to comply with new regulatory requirements, while ensuring the safety of the reservoir’s nearby residential communities. Planned enhancements include improvements to flow control, increased chemical storage capacity, the establishment of new chemical addition facilities and monitoring systems (CAF-North and CAF-South), implementation of a SCADA system, upgrades to electrical infrastructure, deployment of innovative flow measurement systems, and renovation of the existing North Entrance at the 90-acre Hillview site.

Mr. Loughlin noted that work will begin in May or June on the MTA’s plan to build a parking garage adjacent to the Brewster train station. The joint venture of Civetta-Stonebridge JV LLC was awarded the Design-Build contract on Dec. 30, 2023 with a winning bid of $149.7 million for the “Brewster Yard Improvements (Phase 1) – Southeast Station Parking” project.

Other projects of note include a new Patient Tower at the Westchester Medical Center valued at $186 million being built by Turner Construction. The project calls for the construction of a new 162,000-square-foot, five-story building containing 92 new hospital beds. The job is slated for completion in 2026.

Work on the latest expansion at White Plains Hospital is also set to begin this year, Mr. Loughlin noted. He said the plan, which includes the construction of a new facility at the current site of a parking garage, will total more than $700 million, with construction costs estimated at approximately $460 million. Mr. Loughlin said that negotiations are continuing to hopefully finalize a Project Labor Agreement with construction manager Suffolk Construction.

Work is also continuing on the $1.8-billion expansion of Regeneron Pharmaceutical’s facilities in Greenburgh and Tarrytown.

Mr. Loughlin said, “I am very optimistic for a very robust work program for this year. While it might start a little late, by May or June we are going to be very busy.”

Rockland County

Stephen Reich, co-vice president of the Rockland County Building & Construction Trades Council, was upbeat on the health of the construction and building sectors in Rockland County in 2024, although several large projects, specifically the Jehovah Witness facility in Ramapo and a planned expansion by Pfizer in Pearl River are both in doubt.

He noted after some site work and road work performed by union contractors, the building trades have learned that the Jehovah Witness organization plans to do the work in-house. Mr. Reich noted that there was a union site contractor in place, but that firm was recently told by a representative of the Jehovah Witnesses that it planned to self-perform the work. The overall plan calls for the development of a 1.5-millionsquare- foot audio-video production facility to be built in the Town of Ramapo, approximately two miles away from its 1.6-million-square-foot World Headquarters complex in Warwick.

“That job is up in the air right now in terms of how it gets done and who is going to do it,” he noted. “It is going to be tough to get it union because they have a tendency to bring in people from all over the country to do their own work as part of their tithing.” Mr. Reich said he is hopeful that, since the development is complicated, union tradesmen will work on the project going forward.

He also said word is that Pfizer, which was planning a $470-million expansion of its vaccine laboratory operations in Pearl River, has put those plans on hold due to lower vaccine sales. The plan is still before the Town of Orangetown for approval, Mr. Reich added.

On the plus side of the ledger, the building trades in Rockland are getting significant work from the data center sector. He noted the first phase of a data center for Databank is underway. Footings have been put in and steel erection will take place shorty on the planned 200,000-square-foot building. Phase two involving another 145,000-square-foot data center is in the approval process.

He added there is a planned expansion at the Sycamore Data Center in Orangeburg that is expected to be filed soon with the town. That project is expected to be valued at approximately $50 million. It is hoped the project could begin construction in the latter part of 2024.

An addition is also planned at the data center on Ramland Road, which is currently in the late stages of the approval process.

Regeneron is in the approval process for its planned $70-million renovation of the former Avon complex in Suffern.

Rockland County BOCES’ plan for a nearly $48-million expansion of its campus in West Nyack will go before the voters on March 6. However, construction on that project, if it secures all necessary approvals, likely won’t begin until 2026.

Some work on the redevelopment of the former Novartis site in Suffern into the Rockland Logistics Center has begun with demolition and some site work being performed by union contractors. The next phase of site work has been let, but at press time the winning bidder has not been announced. Brookfield is developing the project, which calls for three industrial buildings to be built totaling 1.2 million square feet.

Major work is also expected to commence soon on 7.2 miles of pipeline in Rockland County for the 339-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express project. The civil contractor on the power line project is J. Fletcher Creamer & Son.

Rockland County capital projects under construction or slated to begin sometime this year include: the more than $18-million Union Hill and Tallman Station Upgrade, which will be performed by ECCO III Enterprises of Yonkers under a Project Labor Agreement. The $8-million Pascack Brook Bridge replacement project, which will also be performed under a PLA, along with the Suffern Lane road improvements, a $7-million project, are a go for this year.

In addition, three county sewer projects (all PLA jobs) are expected to go out to bid soon, he noted. In addition, the trades have a number of significant NYSDOT projects expected to go out to bid and begin this year.

Mr. Reich said that losing the Pfizer and possibly the Jehovah Witness development has hurt prospects for this year. In addition, a number of projects have been delayed.

“I anticipate an average to an above average year still,” he predicted. “I am always a little conservative.”

Mid-Hudson Region

Todd Diorio, president of the Hudson Valley Building & Construction Trades Council, said that 2023 was a good year for most of the building trades in the Mid-Hudson region. He noted that the market share of work has shifted in recent years to more heavy-highway (infrastructure) work. He noted that the Building Trades’ nine-year average (man-hours) has been 48% work in the building sector and 52% in heavy highway work. However, last year heavy highway project work accounted for 66% of man-hours and 34% in the building sector. Heavy highway/infrastructure work involves roads, bridges, water and sewer treatment plants, etc.

“The trades that are involved in the heavy highway industry—the Laborers, the Operating Engineers, the Iron Workers and the Carpenters, have seen pretty good numbers as far as man-hours,” Mr. Diorio said. “Some of the other trades have been a little bit slower just because the building industry slowed down, so the trades like the Sheet Metal Workers, the Plumbers and the Electricians may have been a bit slower than what we call the ‘Dirt Trades’ or the heavy highway trades.”

When asked how this year looks for the Mid-Hudson region’s union tradesmen, Mr. Diorio said, “2024 looks good. There is a lot of work planned. We are starting to see some of the infrastructure money. Even some of the towns and the cities, such as Middletown and Kingston, have monies coming in, and you are starting to see some of that money go to sewer and water projects.”

He added, “Definitely during the peak in the summer we should be at full employment. I know the Laborers will be at full employment and the trades should have another good year.”

Mr. Diorio noted that this year the trades will see the first project in connection with the planned improvements to Route 17, which could eventually involve $1 billion in work, go out to bid. In the fall NYSDOT expects to put out to bid phase two of the Exit 122 improvement program, which has been estimated at $83.3 million.

According to the NYSDOT timeline, other Route 17 improvement work, which could involve adding a third lane in each direction on portions of Route 17 in Orange and Sullivan counties, will likely commence in 2026.

The building trades will also see a significant amount of sports stadium work. For example, Michie Stadium at West Point is slated for $200 million in upgrades, Dutchess Stadium will undergo approximately $25 million in improvements (PLA), while Dietz Stadium in Kingston is also slated for upgrades (PLA).

Other work at West Point includes the $45-million Lincoln Hall project.

The City of Middletown will undertake improvements to the former O& W Station under a Project Labor Agreement. The project is expected to cost approximately $20 million to complete.

The first phase of the redevelopment of the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center went out to bid recently. The apparent low bid for that work was more than $5.8 million. The second phase is expected to go out to bid in the next few months, Mr. Diorio said. That project could be worth approximately $300 million. A PLA is in place on the project. Mr. Diorio expects work could begin in earnest on the project this summer.

There will also be significant school capital construction work this year. Mr. Diorio noted that combined work for the Cornwall, Middletown, Monroe-Woodbury and Newburgh school districts will amount to approximately $350 million. In addition, approximately $180 million in renovation work and some additions will be performed at Orange-Ulster BOCEs facilities this year.

Work is also expected to start this summer on the final phase of the Delaware-Aqueduct Rondout Bypass Tunnel project, which will employ approximately 100 Laborers. Work on the bypass tunnel began seven years ago.

Work will also get underway in the Catskills region on the Champlain- Hudson Power Express project. Ulster County will build a $20-million Operations Center under a PLA in the Town of New Paltz. Also in

Ulster County, work is continuing on the Wurts Street Bridge in Kingston, performed under a PLA with A. Servidone/B. /Anthony.

Negotiations are in the final stages on a PLA with the New York City DEP on $85 million in roadway improvements at its upstate facilities.

A significant amount of union workers will be employed in the Town of Newburgh building Matrix Development Group’s latest warehouse project, which will total approximately 500,000 square feet.

Orange County is also building a new $24-million Medical Examiner’s building in Goshen.

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