With the premier issue of the new ENR New York, we are excited to introduce our “Top 20 Under 40.” It showcases exceptional players in the region’s A/E/C industry and takes its place alongside our traditional rankings of contractors, designers and projects. But rather than focusing on firms, this list is all about the individuals who are forging fresh perspectives in this region.
ENR New York solicited entries from readers who were free to nominate themselves or others they think have made valuable contributions to the A/E/C community. Nominees had to be located in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and they had to be under the age of 40.
After nominations were closed, a panel of industry experts was assembled to review and score the entries. Our judges included: Audrey Matlock, principal, Audrey Matlock Architect; John Rapaport, general counsel and director of operations, Component Assembly Systems; Mark Varian, president, John Gallin & Sons; and Ken Levien, founder, Levien & Company.
The profiles of our Top 20 featured in this section provide a glimpse into the accomplishments, work ethic and dedication of these high achievers.
Although each person has his or her own story, there are common themes throughout. Several people in the Top 20 helped launch new or expanded business lines for their firms, for example.
Others are positioned at the leading edge of innovative trends, establishing them as experts in their respective fields. Still others earned recognition through old-fashioned diligence and drive.
Notably, nearly every member of our Top 20 has spent most, if not all, of their career at their current firms, rather than constantly chasing the next opportunity with a different employer.
Many members of our list also reflect the global reach of firms in the New York metro area. These individuals have distinguished themselves not only in their home offices, but in cities around the world.
In the following pages, we invite you to learn more about these rising stars who will shape the future of our industry.
Guided by a commitment to social and environmental responsibility
35, Principal and Co-founder
New York, N.Y.
A commitment to the core values of architecture—social and environmental responsibility—has shaped Tom Abraham’s career and guides his practice.
“Everyone has an inherent responsibility toward society,” Abraham says. “We, as architects, have a profound impact on society. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
Abraham graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from The Cooper Union in 1998. The college and Dean John Hejduk’s commitment to social contracts helped define Abraham’s belief in an architectural lineage that goes beyond the individual.
In 2006 Abraham formed ElementalNYC with partners John Barboni and Carl Stein, with whom he taught at City College of New York. They embrace a 1920 modernist philosophy—espoused by Larry Buck—and a horizontal office.
“We all sit in one room and sit at the same size desk,” Abraham says. “We limit our compensation to a certain percentage more than the lowest-paid employee in the office. If the firm does well, everyone does well. If the firm is having a tough time, we all share it in it equally.”
ElementalNYC includes Elemental Architecture, which designs sustainable structures, and Sine Elemental, which creates identity and media material for firms wishing to communicate their concern for and commitment to sustainable practices. Abraham blogs and employs social media to get the word out about design, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and other issues he feels are important.
“We realize architecture has an inherently strong power to communicate ideas, and we felt it was necessary to find ways to communicate those ideals and ideas to a broader public beyond architecture,” Abraham says.
Bringing technology to the forefront in transportation design
38, Project Manager/Assistant Department Head, Electrical Technologies
During his 15 years with HNTB, Greg Baron has seen the Electrical Technologies Group evolve from a supporting player to a lead role.
“When I started here, we basically did highway lighting,” he says. “We were a support group. Now, the majority of the work is purely electrical design and we might bring in other groups to support us.”
The 14-person electrical group, where he serves as assistant department manager, works on up to 30 projects at a time, each varying widely in size and type.
Baron’s resume of work has grown to include airport lighting, signage and controls; highway lighting and toll systems; and the design of specialty control and power systems for movable bridges. He has worked on more than 50 bridges, including Marine Parkway Bridge and 145th Street Bridge in New York City and Mantoloking Bridge in Ocean County, N.J.
His aviation assignments include the recent overhaul of electrical systems at Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, and the design and testing of security systems at JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York.
Baron recently contributed to the implementation of the high-speed E-ZPass system throughout New Jersey, the first system of its kind in the state.
“When I look at the diversity of work we have now and what is coming in the future, I’m amazed,” Baron says.
Performance under pressure helps developer-builder grow its portfolio
36, Chief Executive Officer
The Ruby Group
Pete Berman credits his experience as a paramedic with giving him many of the tools needed to lead The Ruby Group.
“[Being a paramedic] is about walking into chaos, whether it’s a large vehicle accident or someone having a medical emergency,” Berman says. “It’s a management practice, getting everything organized, getting people who speak different languages on the same page, while dealing with a difficult situation, usually in a difficult environment.”
The development company tripled its revenue in 2010 compared with the prior year, in part because the group partnered with banks on distressed assets.
In building a team to handle commercial and residential projects for clients, he looks for personality more than skill set—people with an intrinsic motivation to do the right thing.
“I can teach anybody how to build a building,” he adds. “I cannot teach you to be someone who has a good work ethic; to put the client first; or to be ethical when you are out of my sight.”
Preserving the traditions of 2D drawing in a 3D world
New York, N.Y.
Babak Bryan sees the design world in an uncertain place where computerized modeling is rapidly advancing and the traditions of 2D drawing are being lost.
Bryan has more than 10 years of experience in high-end residential, building conversions and office interiors, with two years of mechanical engineering experience. He also mentors his younger TEK peers in architectural drawing and the latest technologies.
Bryan also teaches architectural drawing as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, where he received a master’s degree in architecture in 2004.
“As we’ve become more computerized, drawings seem to be an afterthought,” he says. “The computer spits out a drawing and you’re not responsible for what it looks like. The class asks, ‘What are we doing with this thing called a drawing now that everyone works on a computer?’”
At TEK, Bryan’s projects include offices for Farrar Strauss & Giroux, Anthem’s San Francisco offices, FEGS Tanya Towers renovation, Rutgers Cook Recreation Center, Venture House Mental Health Clinical Facility and various School Construction Authority projects.
Balancing work and family obligations with class
New York, N.Y.
Virginia Castillo strives to be a powerful female role model who handles her “personal, family and work obligations with class.” After being hired by Corgan as a designer in 2004, Castillo was promoted to associate in just two years. Currently the only female on the New York office management team and the youngest, Castillo acts as lead designer and project manager for Corgan’s Interiors group.
Castillo manages teams of at least six people per project, from designers to subcontractors, and juggles anywhere from five to 10 projects at a time. Notable clients include American Airlines, Citigroup and UBS. She has worked on projects for some of the top airports worldwide including JFK Airport, Logan International Airport and Heathrow Airport.
In addition, Castillo spends nearly half of her workweek mentoring, including interacting extensively with new hires. “The better your team gets, the better the project gets,” she says.
In addition to her demanding career, Castillo has a growing family. In 2009, she gave birth to her first child. “I want to prove that I can have a professional life and be a good wife and mother,” she says.
Frank L. Ciminelli II
On the front lines of building a $2-billion gaming business
36, Senior Vice President
Over the past decade, Frank Ciminelli II has helped turn LPCiminelli’s venture into the gaming industry into a sure bet.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, and his master’s degree in construction management from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Ciminelli returned to the family-owned business in 2001.
His first big test was as project manager of the $65-million expansion of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack in Wheeling, W.Va. The team delivered a 300,000-sq-ft addition in only 14 months. LPCiminelli saw opportunities to expand its gaming business, and Ciminelli was tapped to lead its Gaming and Entertainment division and became senior vice president by the age of 33.
To build its gaming business, Ciminelli has leveraged the company’s reputation of delivering fast-track projects on time and on budget.
LPCiminelli’s work on a $38-million project at Tioga Downs, for example, cut the schedule from 18 months to eight months. Since 2004 LPCiminelli has completed more than $2 billion worth of gaming work.
“The fast-track nature of this business is the thing that really weeds out the competition,” points out Ciminelli. “We’ve proven to a lot of clients that, even though we work out of Buffalo, we can deliver anywhere, from Saratoga to Miami and Memphis to Delaware.”
Successful gaming projects completed by the firm under Ciminelli’s leadership include the $360-million Mount Airy Resort & Casino; the $33-million Saratoga Gaming and Raceway; the $22-million Hamburg Casino at the Fairgrounds; and the $19.5-million Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.
Kevin E. Dunathan
From laborer to upper management by the age of 35
38, Vice President of Operations
Kevin Dunathan has covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. He began his career as a laborer and worked for several contracting firms on Long Island and in Colorado before joining Stalco in 1999 as assistant superintendent. Within eight years, Dunathan had worked his way up to vice president of operations, where he currently oversees 21 project managers and superintendents in charge of projects valued at more than $80 million. He is also directly involved in business development, estimating, bid submissions and maintaining relationships with clients and consultants.
Although he has moved up quickly, Dunathan credits his broad experience with helping shape his career.
“One thing that has benefited me and helped me get to where I am is having respect for all levels of our industry,” he says. “In order for me to succeed, I need the respect of the people around me. I do that by understanding who they are, where they’ve been and where they want to go.”
During his career at Stalco, the firm has experienced tremendous growth, expanding from $4 million in revenues in 1999 to $63 million in 2010.
Dunathan is one of the authors of Stalco’s recent expansion in New York City. He was involved in winning, and now is managing, the 60,000-sq-ft, $7.2-million Battery Park City Community and the $10-million renovation of the landmark Pier A on the Hudson River.