The Tishman and Felt families knew one another well, both socially and through business, and that was how the Tishman Company came into the mix on the site, as a 25 percent owner of the Two Penn Plaza building, and as the Construction Manager for both buildings.
This was a marvelous opportunity for Tishman Realty, and for our construction division. For years, I had been agitating to my uncles and cousins to permit our division to construct projects for outside owners, but they had always said no. I had continued to argue that the more work we might do for other owners, the better chance we would have of attracting highly qualified construction professionals for those times when Tishman Realty required construction services for its own new buildings. Their argument back to me was that if my division did work for outsiders, it would end up paying less attention when working for Tishman Realty’s interests. The argument did not resolve until the opportunity arose to work on Madison Square Garden.
If I had to pick a particular moment when Construction Management began, it would be this one. The Madison Square Garden and Two Penn Plaza project occasioned it. For my construction division, here was the chance to do both things at once, to work for Tishman
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Realty and at the same time to work for other owners. Through discussions with the Felts we came to a structure for the construction division’s participation that was basically a rental arrangement. In practice, this meant that during the Garden’s design and construction, my colleagues and I as construction professionals were absorbed into the joint venture formed to build and manage the property, serving as that joint venture’s construction advisor, advocate, and coordinator in working with the architect and contractors, on behalf of the owners.
That was the essence of Construction Management. I thought it was logical, and appropriate to the task at hand—Madison Square Garden and Two Penn Plaza. I was not aware of any other companies then working in a similar manner to supervise construction. The construction company Morse/Diesel had worked so closely with developer Erwin Wolfson that they had an effective partnership, but in our arrangement for MSG, my construction division would supervise the individual trade contractors and subcontractors for the developer as its agent, not be the contractor.
What the Construction Management arrangement meant for me was that I became involved every step of the way, starting with the basic decision of where to situate the Garden on the site; prior to our getting involved, the shell of the old Pennsylvania Station had been demolished, and the station’s functions had been moved underground, to a level at which the railroad’s terminus connected directly with New York’s Seventh and Eighth Avenue subway lines. I was just as happy not to have been involved in the destruction of the old terminal, which had provoked a huge outcry from preservationists. Shortly, they would spur the creation of the New York City Landmarks Commission, chartered to prevent the tearing down of other architecturally and culturally significant buildings before their history and intrinsic importance had been assessed. Once the commission had been established, owners and developers had to obtain its permission before the removal or renovation of such historically important buildings.