Outer borough construction kings: Here are the top general contractors outside Manhattan

TRD ranks the most active construction companies in the outer boroughs

<em>Construction workers in Brooklyn </em>(Credit:Drew<em> Angerer/Getty Images)</em>
Construction workers in Brooklyn (Credit:Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When it comes to new building construction in the Bronx, the largest projects tend to be affordable and supportive housing.

Many of the biggest projects in the borough from January 2012 to March 2017 featured affordable housing, according to data from the Department of Buildings. One of the biggest projects was Omni New York’s 2956 Park Avenue, a 15-story low-income project in the Melrose section of the Bronx.

The difference in building a market-rate rental versus a low-income one is usually limited to fixtures and later-stage building materials, said Matthew Gross, head of development at Lettire Construction. The bones of the building and basic structural logistics are typically the same. Still, the general contractors who dominate projects in the Bronx and the outer boroughs at large tend to take on a high-volume of affordable housing.

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The Real Deal took a look at the general contractors who worked on the biggest projects in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn in the past five years, based on permits filed and approved for new building and renovation work. Each borough has two rankings of the top five general contractors by new building construction and renovation work, the former based on square footage and the latter on estimated initial costs of these projects as told by the DOB.

Attention: The internal data of table “520” is corrupted!

Monadnock Construction, which worked on the Park Avenue project, took the top spot for new construction in the Bronx with 1.5 million square feet of projects approved. Greg Bauso, president of Monadnock, noted that the company’s had several opportunities in the Bronx, most of which have been affordable housing projects. He said the company doesn’t specifically go after affordable housing developments and focuses more on choosing jobs based on the clients and their current workload.

“We just look at jobs that make sense,” he said.

Attention: The internal data of table “521” is corrupted!

The top contractors in the outer boroughs are, on the whole, smaller shops than those that dominated TRD’s citywide ranking. Giants like Skanska, Turner and Lendlease still made appearances on some of the lists, but other lesser-known firms — Transparent Construction and Abax Inc., for example — climbed to the top of the rankings. In Queens, Hudson Meridian Construction took the top spot for new building construction with 3.5 million square feet of work. Citnalta Construction ranked number one by renovation work with $161.7 million in estimated costs. Brooklyn’s top general contractor for new building construction was Lendlease with 2.4 million square feet of new construction. Transparent Construction topped renovations in the borough with $136.6 million in estimated costs.

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Transparent Construction $136.6 million
ACS System Associates$122.9 million
Skanska USA$120.6 million
Central Mechanical System$82.8 million
Zoria Housing $80.0 million
Source note: TRD pulled A1 and A2 permits prefiled and approved by the Department of Buildings from Jan. 2012 to March 2017. Renovations, which include interior and facade work, were ranked by initial estimated costs listed on DOB permits (which include general construction, cost of structural materials and mechanical systems). The data includes work permitted by the DOB and excludes work approved by other agencies. It also only includes work where the general contractor is specifically listed on the DOB permit.

The new building projects in Brooklyn are predominately mixed-use and mixed income residential projects. Many, however, include an affordable housing component, like Jonathan Rose Companies’ 146 Pierrepont Street, a 19-story mixed-use tower where 20 percent of the 86 units will be affordable. The largest new buildings in Queens included one of the buildings planned for the Durst Organization’s Hallets Point — 26-01 First Street — which will include several affordable apartments.

COMPANY Estimated Cost
Citnalta Construction $161.8 million
Adam's European Contracting $154.7 million
T.A. Ahern Contractors $109.2 million
Arnell Construction $91.7 million
ACS System Associates$86.2 million

Bryan Murray, a representative for March Associates, which ranked fifth on the ranking for new construction in Brooklyn, said that traditionally, smaller firms have not had the same bonding programs, safety and insurance as larger construction outfits. But these firms have become increasingly sophisticated.

“I think there has been a belief that you need to hire a huge company in order to get construction done properly in Manhattan,” he said in an email. “We are seeing that shift more and more as we prove to be as — if not more — efficient and cost effective.”

Abax Inc.$981 million
Notias Construction $102 million
Arnell Construction $74.6 million
ACS System Associates$72 million
Lanmark Group $67.8 million

Gross noted that developers are increasingly embarking on larger projects in the outer boroughs and are turning to open shop construction, meaning that a worksite is a blend of union and nonunion labor. Lettire, which ranked third on the new building construction ranking in Brooklyn, also made TRD’s citywide general contractor ranking. Over the years, nonunion shops have increased their market share in the outer boroughs and on smaller residential projects. They are now expanding to Manhattan and larger projects, though the revival of 421a — dubbed Affordable New York — might curb that growth since it favors union labor on large projects along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts. Still, Gross is confident that developers will see that Lettire can tackle larger projects.

“I think there’s a level of confidence now that we can handle and build it,” he said.