Empire Pile and Foundation
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 3 mins
For more than 53 years, Empire Pile & Foundation has been performing pile foundation services in the New York City metropolitan area. As a family-owned and -operated business, Empire Pile completes public projects on the city, state and federal levels as well as performing private sector work. “We do all sorts of different projects,” says James Coppola Sr., president of Empire. “We’ve done bridges and tunnels as well as foundation work for retail chains.”
Empire Pile was founded by Coppola Sr. and his father in 1963. “My father started in 1938 as a dump truck excavator,” recalls Coppola Sr. “I started working with him in the ‘60s and we decided to change over to pile driving.” Empire Pile is currently in its third generation of family operation as Coppola’s son, James Coppola Jr., is a project manager with the company.
Establishing a niche
Working in New York City, Empire Pile has had the opportunity to work on many projects over the years
for high-profile clients. Notable jobs that the company has completed include Battery Park City, a mainly residential 92-acre planned community at the southwestern tip of Manhattan, as well as a job for the Port Authority. “For the Port Authority job, we had to blast 160,000 yards of rock,” Coppola explains. “We then built the tunnel that goes from 41st street to the Lincoln Tunnel for the Port Authority buses.”
With the ability to perform jobs of all sizes, Coppola Sr. says that Empire Pile will complete jobs in the range from $100,000 to $10 million. After being a union contractor for many years, the company became non-union in the year 2000. “For a long time, you couldn’t get quality work from a non-union contractor,” says Coppola Sr. “We came out of the union and went into the private sector. It was then that the city developers realized that not only could they get the job done at a better price, but it would also be done at a higher quality level.” Since leaving the union, Empire Pile has become the largest non-union pile driving company in the city of New York.
Empire Pile is currently involved in a major residential project at the once vibrant site of 5Pointz, the iconic graffiti space in Long Island City. The site, which is located at 22-24 Jackson Avenue, has nearly 1 million square feet of residential space and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. The site will consist of two 48-story towers that will feature 1,100 apartments. The development is expected to be completed by 2018.
Empire Pile has been contracted to complete the foundation for the project. “We’re doing all of the excavation, piling and concrete work,” says Coppola Jr. “It’s a very involved project and is very challenging.” The location of the job is on a brownfield site, which contains heavily contaminated soil. Empire has had to excavate 100,000 tons of soil and distribute it to four different disposal locations throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Indiana.
Another challenge presented with the 5Pointz project is the fact that the site is between an elevated railcar and a subway. “We had to work with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to ensure that there was no disruption to their structures,” Coppola Jr. explains.
“We also had to dewater about 15 million gallons of water, which then had to be treated and filtered back into the sewer system.” The dewatering aspect of the job is due to the fact that a parking garage is also being constructed at the site. The overall project consists of approximately 1.2 million square feet and is currently one of the largest projects in the city.
Coppola Jr. has been with Empire Pile since 2007. He says that jobs like the 5Pointz project are great because they present a learning experience for everyone involved. “You learn something new every day on a job like this,” he adds. “I like the challenge it presents and the different people that we get to work with.”
With the strong reputation that Empire Pile has established as a non-union contractor in New York City, the company will continue its pile driving work while adding additional drilling projects to its portfolio. This set of services rounds out the company’s ability to provide complete foundations for its clients. Empire Pile & Foundation will utilize its expertise to remain the biggest non-union pile driving contractor in the New York metropolitan area.
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