Engineers Week Kickoff – 2011


Gerard Hillenbrand, P.E.

This year 2011 is the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the annual Engineer’s week celebration throughout the United States. Engineers in the New York Metropolitan area observed this anniversary with a kickoff reception on Thursday, February 17th, 2011 at the Polytechnic Institute of N. Y. University in downtown Brooklyn. This reception was sponsored by the Metropolitan Engineering Societies Council, the umbrella organization promoting the interests of engineers who are members of 25 local engineering organization chapters in our area.

This well-attended function began with an enthusiastic networking and dinner session partially sponsored by the Alumni Association of the Polytechnic Institute. After the delicious repast, the attendees relocated to the auditorium of the university’s Dibner library building where MESC Chairman Wasyl Kinach, P.E, welcomed all guests. In his introductory remarks, Mr. Kinach proudly referred to his organization’s new banner, prominently displayed on the auditorium stage. A similar banner was also displayed at the Port Authority bus terminal in Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Kinach also extended special thanks to the reception’s sponsors, which included Granite Construction, Dvirka and Bartilucci, Kiewit Infrastructure and Con Edison organizations. After briefly summarizing the efforts of MESC, Mr. Kinach restated his belief that engineers have had a major impact with vital contributions to the advances of civilization. However, these contributions have seemed to recede into the background in modern society and engineers must respond to this situation by adopting a more prominent and vigorous public stance to increase public awareness of engineering accomplishments.

Mr. Kinach next introduced to the assemblage Dr. Richard Thorsen, Polytechnic Institute’s Vice-president. Dr. Thorsen proceeded to relate the Polytechnic’s history, being founded more than 100 years ago as the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. By 1973 the school’s mission sufficiently expanded to justify a name change into Polytechnic Institute of New York and by 1985 into Polytechnic University. In the interim, New York University had closed its engineering school in 1972, a move caused by financial problems. NYU’s subsequent prosperity enabled a reconsideration of this earlier regrettable decision and in 2008 offered to form a partnership with Polytechnic University. The resulting merger has produced a vibrant University specializing in advanced engineering and scientific development, education and research.

Dr. Thorsen next responded to Mr. Kinach’s comments by reminding attendees that the enormous advances in human longevity during the past 100 years throughout the world have been made possible almost exclusively by engineers who developed the technology for providing pure, clear, potable drinking water to people everywhere. He also reported on the 2005 survey, which ranked engineering as the sixth most admired profession after nursing, medicine, dentistry, veterinarians, and health care in general. Forty plus professions were considered with political sphere, the legal profession, and used car dealerships among the least respected groups. Dr. Thorsen also acknowledged that the United States trails most of the world in the number of graduating engineers produced annually. He also noted that the large number of engineering graduates produced by the education systems in developing countries such as China and India cannot be overtaken. However, American engineering education is still recognized as of the highest quality with its emphasis on invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in training.

Dr. Thorsen also described how Polytechnic’s merger with NYU has produced expanded resources for economic and engineering development. The partnership has created several engineering incubator groups located off campus with industry, college, legal and technical specialists researching such urgent subjects as clean renewable energy, biotechnology, cyber-security, digital media concerns, and information technology. These incubator groups provide such services as office and classroom space, management software, marketing techniques, networking opportunities, and access to students, professors, and business advisors. Representatives of 48 companies are on-site at these incubators with 14 additional company representatives available via remote contact. 20 members of the university faculty as well as more than 200 students also participate. The university and various companies have provided more than $25 million in seed funding and the resulting research in science and technology has created more than 250 new jobs. Dr. Thorsen is highly optimistic about the future of these groups in the future as circumstances permit.

Chairman Kinach next introduced George Golochenko, P.E., MESC Program Chairman, who presented the attendees with copies of Mayor Bloomberg’s enthusiastic and heartfelt proclamation of Engineer’s Week in the city of New York. The proclamation itself was then very effectively read to the audience by an officer of one of MESC’s member organizations, the Municipal engineers of the City of New York.

The evening’s keynote address: “World Trade Center Transportation Hub Engineering Challenges” was presented by Quentin M. Blathwaite, AIA, AICP, Assistant Director of construction at the World Trade Center for the Port Authority’s Office of Program Logistics. Mr. Blathwaite has more than 25 years of experience in management of various programs, projects and construction efforts. Prior to his current position, he served as Assistant Program Director for Air Train JFK Project and was responsible for planning, design, and construction of the Van Wyck Expressway segment. Mr. Blathwaite’s talk was illustrated by a computerized slide series showing a number of up-to-date photographs of the substantial construction progress of the World Trade center rehabilitation.

Mr. Blathwaite began his presentation by noting that, as a registered architect and project coordinator, he continually works in close cooperation with many engineers, whom he admires for their professional expertise and enthusiastic dedication to the goals of the World Trade Center reconstruction. He related how the Port Authority engineering staff distinguished itself by organizing and completing restoration of PATH service to the downtown Manhattan area by first clearing tunnels E and F (providing outbound and inbound service, respectively) and then building a new temporary station on the site of an old abandoned site. A new permanent station was started in 2008 and the hope is that it will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack.

Starting in 2002, and in cooperation with the Silverstein Properties organization, the Port Authority supervised the architectural competition for the rebuilding and renewal of the World Trade Center site. After several major revisions and complex negotiations, agreement was reached on a redevelopment program which included careful preservation of the human and physical remains, an impressive memorial and new cultural facilities, all within an overall budget coordinated by the federal, state, city governments and the Port Authority. Transportation issues given a high priority for development including a new tunnel across the property for the #1 Train, a new Fulton Street subway transfer hub in cooperation with the NYC Transit Authority, and a new major east-west corridor under Route 9-A, West street, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Transportation, all for an overall expenditure of more than $3 billion. Other significant engineering efforts include the reinforcement of the walls of the existing “bathtub” structure and the installation of an additional slurry wall along the east portion of the bathtub. Excavations uncovered an ancient ship buried far below the surface and regulations provide for the preservation of this and other historical items.

The most visible sign of construction progress is the rise of #1 World Trade Center building. At a height of 56 stories, the 1776-foot tall structure will eventually consist of 70 floors of rental space topped by a tall transmission tower. The lowest 200 feet of the structure is a bunker-like reinforced concrete base designed to resist a concentrated terrorist assault. At completion, this building will be taller than the Empire State building. Three additional towers have also begun to be constructed, jointly financed by the Port Authority and the Silverstein organization, and all scheduled for completion at heights approximately equal to that of the Empire State building. Upon completion these buildings will revise and define the skyline in downtown Manhattan.

New construction is also proceeding on the site’s Plaza level where two, 200 feet square memorial pools, complete with re-circulating water fountains, are located on the footprints of the demolished Towers #1 and 2 of the original World Trade Center. Since September 2010 construction has advanced on the triangular wedge-shaped memorial column of survival steel from the original towers. Also prominent at the Plaza level is the central heating and chiller plant which imports Hudson River water for climate control for the entire installation. Coordination of all this construction activity has been a major problem for the Port Authority. For example, normal pedestrian usage among Church and Vesey streets averages 14,000 people per hour. This makes supply deliveries, worker transport, and equipment maneuverability extremely difficult. The Port Authority engineers and planners have developed a staged schedule for timely delivery of supplies, workers, and equipment primarily via trucks at night.

The Transit Authority’s transportation hub along Fulton Street will interconnect with the number #2, 3 and 4 subway lines with the J, N and R lines and will also connect into the east-west corridor under West Street into the Winter Garden located in Battery Park City. This hub and corridor is expected to handle 100,000 commuters per day and provide 500,000 square feet of new retail space. The Fulton Street portion of this hub is scheduled for completion in 2014 and will prominently feature the glass illuminating structure above Fulton Street designed by famous architect Santiago Callatrava. The special arch-type supports for this structure are now partially in place after undergoing unique fabrication procedures in Spain, Mr. Callatrava’s birthplace.

The usual question and answer period was particularly interesting with the explanation that Mr. Callatrava has incorporated special cleaning provisions for his unique glass structure, which has also been redesigned several times because of funding limitations. The original World Trade Center site had 10 million square feet of office space and the future center will have at least that volume with towers with limited residential facilities. The Port Authority and the Silverstein organization will jointly fund several of the new towers and the NYC Department of Buildings has been continually consulted during design and construction, over an 8-year period.

Professional engineers attending this reception and lecture qualified for one hour of credit toward fulfilling their continuing education requirements as mandated by New York State’s Department of Education.

This was an excellent activity for appropriately observing the 60th anniversary of Engineer’s Week. Great job, as usual!

 Posted by at 2:23 pm