Trades Union Buys Putnam County Property for Training Center

John Jordan | October 2016

Local 60’s Trench & Excavation Safety class is conducted outside the training center facility.

BREWSTER—For years officials with Laborers Local No. 60 of Hawthorne had to be creative when trying to secure space to train its membership, using other trade union facilities and sometimes even vacant parking lots for classrooms and field training. That was until they found a home in Putman County.

The Laborers Local No. 60 Training & Education Center building in Brewster.
The Laborers Local No. 60 Training & Education Center building in Brewster.

Real Estate In-Depth visited Laborers Local No. 60’s new training facility at 50 Prospect Hill Road in Brewster. Local 60 Business Manager Anthony Ascencao said the union acquired the 5,000-square-foot building and its adjoining three acres of land for approximately $1.1 million in April of this year. The union subsequently performed renovations to the building to convert the former office space into classroom and training space. At press time, tradesmen were putting the finishing touches on the new training center.

The union, whose members live and work in Westchester and Putnam counties, perform heavy highway, road, bridge and utility work, can finally have its own facility to train its membership, which has grown thanks to the strong local economy to 1,030 active members. Local 60 was chartered in October 1928 and originally was headquartered in Yonkers and moved to its current headquarters facility in Hawthorne in the 1980s.

Ascencao, who was elected business manager two-and-a-half years ago, said one of his chief goals upon taking office was finding a site for a training facility, which he said was “long overdue.”

“What we were doing before this was kind of piecing it together,” Ascencao said. “We were using the Construction Industry Council’s (of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc.) building in Tarrytown and their parking lot, we used the parking lot of our union hall (in Hawthorne) and inside for classrooms, and we would use various VFW clubs; wherever we could get a spot, that is where we would train.”

He continued that for digging and excavation, the Laborers would use training facilities of Operating Engineers Local No. 137. “We were all over the place,” Ascencao noted.

After just a few months in Putnam County, Ascencao said the union seized on an opportunity to cement its future in Brewster. He revealed that the union is in contract to acquire an additional 24 acres adjacent to its facility through its Realtor Kevin Callahan of Covington Commercial Realty of Brewster.

The union has no plans at the moment to build on the property, but uses the property around its training center for outside field training.

Ascencao said that the union conducted a search for more than a year of both Westchester and Putnam counties for its new training center. “It was tough to find property in Westchester, affordable property in Westchester. Putnam County was cheaper and afforded us more opportunities and more land. We needed not only a building; we needed a good amount of land. We do most of our training outside.”

He added, “We could find buildings (in Westchester) that had a lot of square footage, but not much outside space for us to do the work we need to do. In Putnam County we were able to find more land.”

In fact, the property was not on the market for sale. Ascencao said that Callahan had sold the former construction contractor’s building to a pool supply company about two years ago and in conversations with that firm was able to strike a deal for the union to buy the property.

Frank Bisignano, president and training director for Laborers Local No. 60, said that the union conducts 33 different classes for its members and will conduct approximately 10,000 training hours by year’s-end. Among the litany of courses offered by Local 60 include: HASMAT and OSHA safety courses, hoisting and rigging, line and grade, pipe, scaffold and hazardous waste handling training and a host of other specialties, as well as required certification courses.

Bisignano, who has been director of training for the past year and an instructor for Local 60 for five years, is very pleased with the new training facility in Brewster.

“We had a lot of visions and a lot of talk before I came here, but now the dream is actually reality,” he said. “I put catch basins out back and now the guys are going in the catch basin and practicing compliance in real conditions. I couldn’t do that before.”

“We want to emulate jobsite construction the best as we can to make it as real as possible,” Ascencao added.

The union is currently at 100% employment of its active membership and has about 70 members working on the new Tappan Zee Bridge project and another 50 on the Algonquin gas pipeline. Other major sources of work for the union include utility work for Consolidated Edison, road and bridge construction in the region as well as onstruction work at Metro-North’s Croton-Harmon yard.

“Last year we did 1.5 million man-hours, this year we will be over that,” Ascencao said. Normally, the union averages around 1 million man-hours.

In the depths of the recession in 2008-2009, the union was down to around 750 active members. He said that the union recently went over the 1,000-member plateau and has not added as many members since the 1980s.

 

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth