Construction Industry Award Recognizes Columbia University’s Communications and Community Engagement Leadership During Construction of Manhattanville Campus

June 23, 2016

A typical celebration of design and construction feats was replaced by a recognition of community communications and diversification programs as the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA) honored Columbia University’s Manhattanville development with a leadership award for communications and community engagement. The award was presented to David M. Greenberg, executive vice president, Columbia University Facilities and Operations, and was received by Marcelo Velez, vice president of Columbia’s Manhattanville Development Group during the BTEA’s Annual Leadership Awards ceremony at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers June 23.

“Columbia receiving this award is a recognition to the construction industry in New York City that engaging the community and creating opportunities for minority, woman and local businesses and workers are critical components of successful construction,” said Greenberg. “We are proud to accept this honor from the BTEA for the impact that the university and the construction team have had in this area locally and within the industry.”

The award recognizes Columbia University’s holistic and comprehensive approach to diversity hiring, construction communications and community engagement after eight years of site work and building construction, leading to the completion of the first two buildings at Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus – the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and Lenfest Center for the Arts – anticipated for later this year.

From the beginning of construction at the new campus in 2008, Columbia University selected diversity contracting and hiring goals above industry standards at the time - 35 percent of construction spend with minority, women and local (MWL) businesses, and 40 percent of the workforce hiring minority, women and local workers. Since that time at the Manhattanville campus, Columbia has paid more than $124 million to MWL businesses, representing 32 percent of total construction spend, while the MWL construction workforce has delivered more than 997,000 hours worked, representing 50 percent of the total workforce hours for the construction of the new Manhattanville campus.

The university’s robust communications program has helped to ensure that all constituencies understand the facts, process and importance of Columbia’s MWL contracting and workforce goals, while also keeping neighbors abreast of day-to-day construction impacts. Columbia’s Manhattanville communications has included continual outbound communications through weekly construction updates and monthly newsletters; a call hotline with a live person available 24 hours per day, seven days per week for construction questions or concerns; and information sessions and open houses to learn about the project, along with job and networking opportunities for contractors. The university held more than 100 community meetings to answer questions, respond to concerns and update the community on the construction progress.

“The university, from the very beginning of the project in 2008, made a conscious decision to look beyond bricks and mortar at construction’s ultimate goals of empowering people, building community and delivering new opportunities,” said Marcelo Velez, vice president of Columbia’s Manhattanville Development Group. “Communications and community engagement were central to that aim, and this award speaks to the success of the university’s aspirations to follow best practices and be a leader in the industry.”

“BTEA is proud to recognize Columbia’s innovative approach to diversity outreach and engaging the community in the construction of the Manhattanville campus as well as ongoing M/WBE efforts in their future capital construction program,” said BTEA President and CEO Louis Coletti. “These characteristics allow New York City to maintain its position as the capital of the world.”

“I would just like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Columbia University, David Greenberg, Marcelo Velez and La-Verna Fountain (vice president of strategic communications and construction business initiatives) for their leadership and approach to diversity hiring, construction communications and community engagement for Columbia University’s Manhattanville development,” said Ralph Esposito, head of East Coast operations for Lendlease US Construction. “Building a new world-class campus for Columbia University is something we at Lendlease take great pride in. The legacy that this new campus will create will be utilized for many generations to come.”

The first phase of development of the Manhattanville in West Harlem campus, which is taking hold over the next decade, includes the construction of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, the Lenfest Center for the Arts, a new home for the Columbia Business School, and the University Forum academic conference center. 

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Manhattanville website.