Why is the NYC MTA so inefficient

Dennis Rohrbacher from seele in NYC

metallbau: To what extent was the Penn Station construction site a special assignment for you?

Rohrbacher: At the Penn Station entrance, the technical requirements and public focus were remarkable. The time pressure for completion was clearly noticeable. For me personally, what was special was working with an excellent team.

metallbau: What were your worst fears for on-site assembly? What precautions did you take?

Rohrbacher: In general, assembly work at seele is planned very precisely in order to eliminate the unforeseen. Time delays in particular are associated with high costs in New York City. The rope facade of the Penn Station was therefore completely assembled in advance on the test site of our steel construction company seele pilsen in the Czech Republic. The senior fitter responsible there then accompanied the assembly in New York.

metallbau: What technical challenges did the on-site assembly pose?

Rohrbacher: What usually cannot be simulated in advance is the exact access to the various components, the material distribution and the shape of the components. In the case of the steel-and-glass canopy, the entire construction - to put it simply - was built over a hole in the street, below which was the entrance to Penn Station. At the same time, further cladding work with cantilevered and overhead cladding was carried out in this opening. We therefore had to use various assembly platforms and work platforms for the assembly. Material was moved with the help of chain hoists, material lifts, mini cranes and modified suction systems. When installing the glazing, mountaineering equipment was also used in order to be able to mount it safely in the vertical work areas. Another challenge was the handling of the many free forms; there was also almost no straight component. All parts had to be measured to the millimeter. Without the use of a total station fed with coordinates from the 3D model, this would not have been possible efficiently.

metallbau: What were the logistical requirements?

Rohrbacher: 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues has not been an "active" street for a long time as part of the renovation work on the entire area. So we had our own small "drive through" for the deliveries. In general, New York is not as tight as you might imagine it to be. The streets and avenues are multi-lane, so one lane is often blocked for a delivery without causing traffic chaos - of course, the necessary permit is required.

metallbau: How did the “just in time” delivery of the steel and glass elements to the construction site work?

Rohrbacher: All components or containers are delivered to New Jersey after entry and customs clearance. There the material is then reloaded or temporarily stored, so the material is available on demand and in the shortest possible time on the construction site - without taking up space on the construction site. A partner also takes care of the necessary permits from the Department of Transportation. The only "hurdle": The delivery of the oversized components to the construction site could only take place at certain times over the bridges to Manhattan.

metallbau: Did you have tools and welding technology delivered from Gersthofen?

Rohrbacher: seele has been active in the USA for many years, so we don't have to change. We mainly use local technology and use equipment from Germany for very special requirements. At the entrance to Penn Station, for example, a German screw clamping cylinder was used to connect the steel structure.

metallbau: What do you have to consider when installing curved glass panes on site?

Rohrbacher: The curved glass panes were made in Italy by sunglass industry. The installation does not differ from the installation of flat glasses. Only the shape and use of the hoist need to be adapted. For the assembly we have modified and certified a suction system with adjustable suction plates.

metallbau: How long were you busy assembling the subway entrance on 33rd Street in NYC?

Dennis Rohrbacher: We were on site from March 2020 to January 2021, assembly took place from June to December 2020. The lifting and assembly of the large steel components and the tensioning of the stainless steel cables were particularly impressive. The lowering of the entire construction to four support points was a real highlight. The assembly in the almost deserted streets of New York was special. Despite the lockdown, work continued on the construction site as it was a public transport construction site.

metallbau: Did you use your stay in NYC for sightseeing?

Rohrbacher: I've been working for seele in the USA for almost six years, including the assembly of the Apple campus and the Apple flagship store in San Francisco in California. I've been in New York for a little more than three years now, so the opportunities have become a bit of an everyday occurrence. I still like to use the time there to get to know the country and its people better. And of course take a look at the finished seele projects such as the Nike Flagship Store, Apple Cube, Puma Flagship Store and the Moynihan Train Hall.

Author: Stefanie Manger