Ferrara Brothers Building Materials Corp. has got its plate full with all the municipal construction projects going on in New York City. Joseph J. Ferrara Jr., vp/general counsel, says one of Ferrara Bros. biggest jobs right now is producing and supplying the concrete needed to build a new water tunnel that will carry fresh water into four of New York City's five boroughs. The project, which started in the 1960s and is expected to be complete by 2020, according to Ferrara, “is the single largest public construction project the city has ever undertaken, but is also the least known because it's all happening 600-700 feet underground.”
In its third stage of production now, the water tunnel is being built in segments, the first two of which were done in Brooklyn and Queens. Ferrara says his company also supplied the concrete for those phases of construction. The most recent section — being built in Manhattan — will likely take 2-1/2 to 3 years to finish, he notes.
“This phase will probably be more demanding on our company's resources [equipment and personnel], because unlike the first two phases where concrete was poured from a single shaft that was located in close proximity to our production plants, this time there will be multiple shafts located throughout Manhattan through which the concrete will be pumped to where it's needed.”
Ferrara says the third phase of the $650 million undertaking will require 120,000 cu. yd. of concrete, which is the equivalent of 10,000-15,000 mixer loads.
Ferrara Bros. is a family-owned business started by Joseph's father and four uncles in 1969. Today it is one of New York City's largest concrete companies, with two production plants in Brooklyn, and two in Queens. There are currently 61 ready-mixed concrete trucks in the fleet, for which the bulk of maintenance is done at the company's Flushing, NY, headquarters.
Bob Gartman, vp of maintenance, notes that as older trucks in the fleet are phased out, they are being replaced with Kenworth T800 models. “The design of the windows in the T800 cab, including a door window with an especially low cut on it and corner windows in the back of the cab, gives our drivers the best visibility.”
Good visibility in the trucks is one of the key features that Gartman says has enabled them to provide a better safety environment for their drivers and eliminate accidents. “We've also switched from standard to Allison World automatic transmissions,” he reports.
A third factor that has made the trucks safer, Gartman points out, is the use of a Chalmer's suspension on the rear axle, which Ferrara has been spec'ng now for the past six years. “Mixer trucks have a high center of gravity,” he explains, “but the Chalmer's suspension keeps the chassis rail straight to prevent a rollover when the weight of the concrete inside the barrel is unevenly distributed.
As important as safety is to Ferrara Bros., so are features that help them to increase their trucks' payload capacity. “Starting with our 1999 model year trucks, we've changed the engineering specs to lighten our trucks up. If loaded properly, we can carry up to 12 yards of concrete on our trucks legally,” Gartman notes.
Joseph Ferrara Jr. tells how his company has been instrumental since 9/11 in providing almost 90% of the concrete needed at Ground Zero. “Our Brooklyn location is one of the closet concrete plants to the site,” he explains. “We also expect to be involved in the new World Trade Center project. Before the new buildings can go up, though, the infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, plus there are plans to construct a single transit center downtown. These projects are just getting started and will require a tremendous amount of concrete before they are completed.”