Adapting to the Times
Peter Morandi, Chief Executive Officer, LEED AP
Eastman Cooke & Associates
Having grown up in a multi-generational construction business outside of Boston and then launching my own in New York City during a recession, I am a firsthand witness and active participant in the changes our industry has experienced over the past three decades. When I opened Eastman Cooke & Associate as a general contracting business in 2009, the goal was to introduce innovative techniques fluid enough to adapt over time, while embracing the brisk culture of construction.
The driving tenet of this endeavor was to eschew the “process for process-sake” part of the business, but rather revise into “process for progress.” The name chosen for this start-up firm was rooted in my own history, referencing my mother’s family name, Eastman, and our forebears who first settled from the Mayflower, Cooke.
A Nimble Beginning
Opening shop in the midst of a financial crisis gave new meaning to a bootstrap launch! The small team I assembled was able to accomplish a lot with very little. I wore multiple hats – a.k.a hardhats – acting as operations manager, senior project manager, and client relations advisor. The balance of the staff comprised an expert estimator and another senior project manager. Our most significant hire of the start-up was a former special education teacher, April Intrabartola, whose innate intelligence and no-nonsense demeanor immediately helped broaden our client base. Today, April’s multiple “hats” encompass business development, operations management, human resources, account management, and unparalleled company morale booster.
Thirteen years later, having launched in a recession and currently weaving through a pandemic, we are working with an A-team of twenty-five inhouse staff that includes estimators, account professionals, project managers, site coordinators, and support staff. Together, they oversee a network of dedicated sub-contractors, and work side-by-side with many of the city’s top architects and engineers.
Contributing to the coordination of multiple projects at any time are protocols that enable us to stay ahead of any issues that naturally arise in the course of any project. At the top of this list is our Work Smart System, comprising a series of highly collaborative, step-by-step protocols led by Eastman Cooke project managers, estimators, and field staff. At all times, on all projects, there are available data for review, so that nothing falls through the cracks and everyone on our team can collectively review a project and, when needed, respond quickly to any issue that arises. From our perspective, there are six basic tenets for every job that may be tailored and adapted for every project and encompass procedures from pre-job to post-job reviews. Although the processes continue to develop organically, the foundation for these concepts came from business advisory consultants from the FMI Group, with whom we continue to work to sustain a controlled growth.
Staying in our Lane
As a mid-sized general contracting and construction management firm, based in New York City and Long Island, our focus will continue to be ground-up, core & shell, and interior construction. Our diverse project portfolio includes everything from corporate interiors, massive auto dealerships, specialty retail, and non-profit offices, to healthcare facilities, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and bio-tech laboratories.
Even before the pandemic, we had begun working on several adaptive re-use projects in the healthcare sector, such as the repurposing of a deteriorating circa 1905 warehouse on West 51st Street, and transforming it into a seven-story, cutting-edge, multi-practice medical center. This past fall, we completed the conversion of a former Sleepy’s mattress store and another retail space into an endovascular clinic and a surgical center, both of which located in an East Harlem shopping mall.
Several projects previously delayed by the pandemic were given the green light earlier this year. Among the most active categories are automotive and we resumed work by March 2021 on two Jaguar/Land Rover car dealerships, in Brooklyn and Long Island. That category is so brisk, we were recently awarded the contract for the first Long Island unit of the largest used car dealership brand in the country.
Eastman Cooke is also active in supporting non-profit endeavors, both as sponsors and builders. The budgets are often challenging but our firm’s commitment to giving back to good causes, such as Family & Children’s Association is unwavering. We also built a center for Mama’s House in East Harlem, which offers counseling for at-risk mothers and their children. This year, we will commence a workforce and mentorship program for students at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Repurposing existing structures, whenever possible, may be ideal in New York City, where zoning is restrictive and building regulations are moving towards sustainability. We are also beginning to see more projects for senior housing that are thoughtfully designed to be accommodating to an aging population, combining compliance with comfort.
Eastman Cooke was specifically developed to provide a different, more inclusive experience for our clients. We are confident in our ability to bring the best results to clients and have long committed to providing free consultations and, often, pre-construction estimate. More than ever, Eastman Cooke is prepared to find solutions because we work as a team on behalf of our clients.
5 Hanover Square, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10004 I Tel. 212-265-2191 I email: email@example.com