Major construction management firm opens office in Mount Vernon

A A Manhattan-based construction management and design firm that has managed projects worth an estimated $50 billion over the past decade has opened a branch at 12 E. Third St. in Mount Vernon. McKissack & McKissack, with over 150 employees, is a New York State-certified Minority and Women-Owned Business (MWBE) led by Cheryl McKissack Daniel. She has over 30 years of experience in all phases of the construction industry and has overseen over 600 projects during her tenure as President and CEO of the company.

Well-wishers at the opening of the McKissack & McKissack office in Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said McKissack’s move to the city represents a first step in creating consortia that will develop new projects.

“We’ve seen render after render after ambitious render, but very rarely have we seen the execution of those renders,” Patterson-Howard said at a ceremony marking the opening of McKissack’s new office. “Now is the time for us to define a vision that includes not just a rendering of a building, a hotel, but a rendering of a community that is growing equitably; neighborhoods that connect and do not divide. It’s time to not just do trailblazing but ribbon cutting and so a vision with fair execution sets an even table for Mount Vernon to rise to. We bring in partners to help us do that.

The company’s history dates back to before it was officially organized in 1905 by Daniel’s grandfather, Moses McKissack III, and his younger brother Calvin. They became the first African American architects to be licensed in the state of Tennessee. The first Moses McKissack had been brought to this country as a slave and made bricks for building projects.

The company eventually expanded into construction and construction management, over the years opening offices in Washington, DC, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and other cities including Bridgeport, Connecticut. Among his notable projects was the construction of the $5.7 million Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama for the federal government in 1942.

The most recent projects the company has worked on include:

  • JFK International Airport Terminal 1;
  • JFK International Airport Terminal 1;
  • Central Terminal Replacement Project at LaGuardia Airport;
  • The Oculus – World Trade Center Transportation Hub;
  • New Penn Station – Moynihan Train Hall;
  • NYCT Barclays Center Transit Connection; and
  • SUNY Purchase Exterior Renovations — Dining Hall and Physical Education Building.

McKissack & McKissack coordinated the design and construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the nation’s capital as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

“They provide a wide range of services to a variety of government agencies, municipalities, private institutions and industries, including academia, aviation, commerce, diversity, healthcare, recovery and resilience, stadiums and parks and transportation,” Kristyn Reed, Mayor Patterson-Howard’s chief of staff, said of the company. “As I read about the company for today’s event, one of the things that stood out to me was their employment in the community.”

Daniel and Patterson-Howard both spoke at the August 11 groundbreaking to open the company’s new regional office. Howard pointed out that the city is planning for its future, including updating the comprehensive plan, which dates back to 1968.

Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Mayor of Mount Vernon

“There’s a big difference between revitalization and gentrification,” Patterson-Howard said. “Revitalization consists of reinvesting in neighborhoods where investment had been lacking. It means providing equal but fairer opportunities to those who have come through the hard times. We want to ensure that as we revitalize our city, we provide opportunities for citizens who have been legacy residents of Mount Vernon and for those who seek to be part of our revitalization and ascension to the next level.

Patterson-Howard stressed that women and minorities deserve a bigger role in the construction industry.

“We see buildings and cranes going up in our communities every day but when we reach these construction sites we rarely see anyone who looks like us or if we do they are in low positions like a flagman, and a flagger is great, but I want to see project managers,” Patterson-Howard said. “We can invest billions and billions in this community, but if that money isn’t recycled, if that money doesn’t represent not people hired here at Mount Vernon, if he doesn’t represent building the capacity of our small contractors and helping them transition from being sub-contractors to prime contractors, we have missed an opportunity. We need to modernize our housing stock in Mount Vernon and we want to make sure everyone has a fair chance to be at the table.

Daniel said McKissack had thought about coming to Mount Vernon for a long time, especially since living in Westchester, but the timing never seemed quite right until she met Patterson-Howard about a year and gets the ball rolling.

Cheryl McKissack Daniel.

Daniel said a major activity at the Mount Vernon office will be building a construction workforce using local residents, although she did not specify any local construction projects on which the company and the labor could work.

“We started in Harlem. On the first day we opened our community labor office within weeks, we received 1,700 applications from people looking for work,” said Daniel. “We have a program in place in Harlem. The first time we opened our office in Queens, a thousand applicants came in one day looking for work. We tried to figure out how to get people of color and women to work and if we couldn’t get them to work on the construction sites…we sent them everywhere. We did the same in Brooklyn and we’re going to do the same here in Mount Vernon and I’m ready to start.

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