D’Onofrio’s expertise in complex projects will carry it in the tough economy. With the tagline “Building Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Today,” D’Onofrio General Contractors Corp. is the go-to contractor for complex marine structures and heavy infrastructure projects in the Northeast, specifically New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company distinguishes itself from other civil contractors through its capability to self-perform its own excavation, pile driving, concrete, sheet metal, roofing applications and most of its underwater dock-building work. This gives D’Onofrio more control over a project’s schedule and budget, as well as safety and quality, Assistant Vice President Jay Reichgott says.
“The experience and skill of our project managers, foremen and superintendents is what separates us because they know the most efficient and cost-effective way of taking the design and turning it into a reality,” he adds.
D’Onofrio was formed in 1991 by brothers Jerry, John and Vincent D’Onofrio. Their commitment to quality work was instilled in them by their father, Jerry Sr., who operated a concrete masonry business from the 1950s to the 1980s. After he retired and dissolved the company in 1988, his sons, having grown up in the industry, opted to carry on the family tradition.
Each of the D’Onofrio brothers has his own niche within the company. John D’Onofrio, for instance, heads up the company’s specialty roofing and building restoration work. Vincent D’Onofrio handles its finances as controller and treasurer. Harry D’Onofrio is senior project manager and head of D’Onofrio’s IT department. Jerry D’Onofrio, who leads the team as president, heads the company’s special projects department. The D’Onofrios’ sister, Angela Barbero, is office manager.
Assistant vice presidents Vincent Leone and Jay Reichgott may not be related to the D’Onofrios by blood, but they are very much a part of the D’Onofrio family. Leone, who has been with the company since its inception, leads the team when it comes to modernizing generation plants or building power substations for local utilities. Reichgott oversees D’Onofrio’s marine department, which has its own fleet of marine construction equipment including barge-mounted cranes.
One of D’Onofrio’s proudest moments in recent years was when it completed the $91.5 million Floating Ferry Terminal at Battery Park City in New York. The floating terminal structure consists of a mono-hull main terminal, two anchorage towers secured to bedrock 75 feet below the water and pedestrian walkways connecting to the Battery Park Esplanade. It was opened to the public in March 2009.
Encompassing more than three-quarters of an acre, it is the largest floating ferry terminal in the United States, not to mention “an architectural marvel” with its glass walls and tension fabric roof, Reichgott asserts. But constructing it was not easy, he concedes.
“It was built on a tight budget, on a tight schedule and on the water, which added to the complexity of construction because you had to be standing in the building that you were working on that was moving all the time,” Reichgott says.
D’Onofrio will be using the same expertise it used on the Floating Ferry Terminal when it begins the upland amenities work on the East 34th Street Ferry Landing this spring. “There is an existing pier that we are putting a pavilion on,” Reichgott describes. “It will have a tension fabric structure roof, with a ticket booth underneath and passenger waiting areas. The whole thing is a big sculptural piece between the tension fabric roof shaped like a big wing and curved walls made out of perforated metal, glass panels and wood panels.”
In addition, D’Onofrio will soon begin reconstruction and retrofit work on Pier 16 on the East River, which is part of the South Street Seaport Museum, which celebrates the nautical heritage of New York. “It’s not a very sexy project,” Reichgott admits. “Nobody will see what we are doing because we’re rebuilding the substructure that’s holding up the pier, but like all piers, it needs to be maintained.”
D’Onofrio has focused on its core people and core capabilities to get through the tough times. “We’ve been maneuvering through this fabulously overpriced and overheated economy,” Reichgott relates. “We are working leaner and have made our subs work leader. That’s how you a) get the jobs and b) keep the jobs and make money off of them. We are working to improve our efficiency so we can maintain our ability to be profitable, granted profits are less.”
Working efficiently and cultivating its relationships in the industry will put D’Onofrio back on the growth path, he predicts. “At this point, the only thing hindering our growth is the economy, so our plan is pretty basic – bid more jobs and bid bigger jobs,” Reichgott says. “The bidder pool has gotten much larger. There are neophytes trying to bid on the specialties, and we’re wondering how they’re going to be able to do the project without doing it at a loss because they bid it so low.”
Because D’Onofrio specializes in this type of work, it knows what it’s going to take to complete it successfully. “We know where the prices should be, and we know what is actually possible,” Reichgott asserts. “Once the economy improves and new markets open up, we’ll see more projects coming back online and we’ll be able to start bidding on those.”
The company prides itself on the quality of work its subcontractors perform in addition to its own. D’Onofrio has strong relationships with a core group of subcontractors, and it understands how important it is to maintain those relationships throughout a difficult economy, Reichgott says.
“We are cultivating our subs, especially our Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) women-owned and minority-owned businesses,” he notes. “It’s a contracting requirement for a lot of the work we do, but it’s also something that we really believe in.
“We’re not just trying to fill a quota,” Reichgott adds. “We have DBE subs that we like to work with, and we are using our capacity and our size to help them develop their abilities and efficiencies, which will translate into better quality, more efficient production and higher profits. We’re just a bunch of guys trying to make it through a bad economy so we can all be there when things get better.”