Skyline Restoration salutes the women who take part in restoring the buildings of our historic city, and proudly presents one of its own: Justine Marie Collins
“One of the most satisfying things for me is to walk the streets of Manhattan and say, ‘I had a part in building this.’”
Justine Marie Collins, Assistant Project Manager at Skyline Restoration’s exterior restoration and renovation project at One Wall Street.
“I can do this.” That’s what Justine Marie Collins always told herself every time she observed construction crews at work. Today, she is the Assistant Project Manager at Skyline Restoration’s exterior restoration and renovation project, at One Wall Street, which is part of the biggest office-to-residential conversion in the history of New York.
Florida-born Collins grew up in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, the middle child among five including two brothers and two sisters. Her father, who died when she was 11, was a shop steward with the Carpenters Union, an uncle was a master plumber, another was a craftsman in millwork and wood trim. She was the only girl in her high school shop class and the one her mother relied on to put things together: shelves, tables, chairs, toys. Family members hired Collins for various jobs, including installing alarms for her stepfather, a lock and alarm smith. “I loved it! I was always good with my hands and a problem solver. And they paid me, too!” she says.
She studied business administration at Manhattan Community College while working full-time as a receptionist for a real estate firm and its GC subsidiary. “I asked questions. I learned how to read shop drawings,” she says. Soon she was laying out plans in the field to install mechanical, electric and plumbing (MEP) equipment. Encouraged by Ro Cutting her “inspiration and mentor,” who, at the time, had a senior role at the firm, Collins decided to make her career in construction. She earned a Certificate in Construction Management at NYU, followed by a series of construction jobs with major GCs for over a decade.
All came to an abrupt halt when Hurricane Sandy demolished her Staten Island house. Collins relocated to Virginia for two years, living with her younger brother and his family and working on repairing beach properties.
A longing to return to high rise projects brought her back to the Big Apple, where a job on condo construction gave her the opportunity to watch work develop “from dust to finished project.”
“Justine is proactive …she’ll never get stuck on a problem. She’ll always find a solution. She’s a team player, always cooperative, ready to help everyone - our crew, the other trades, the GC.”
Wilson Cajilima, VP Production, Skyline Restoration
In 2017, Collins reconnected with Wilson Cajilima, VP Production, whom she had met several years ago on one of Skyline Restoration’s project in New York City. Remembering her exemplary work, he called her in for an interview. Seeing that she had significantly expanded her experience and knowledge and that glowing references attested to her capabilities, he decided that she met Skyline’s standards for excellence and gave her the opportunity to join the company, which she happily accepted.
He recognized early her ability to grasp the full scope of a project, no matter how large, and its challenges, then focus on ways to seek a collaborative solution. He assigned her to the One Wall Street project, where she has stayed, and grown, in her Assistant Project Manager role for over three years.
She remains undaunted by the magnitude of the One Wall Street project and its inherent responsibility, knowing full well that, at a Skyline project the expectations are unmatched. “It is the largest project I’ve ever been involved in,” says Collins who leaves her apartment in Alphabet City at 6 am to arrive on site by 7, where she starts her workday coordinating with foreman Dario Sucuzhanay, his restoration crew, and various subcontractors.
“Skyline is hands down the best company I’ve ever worked for. It gives me the opportunity to learn and grow and broaden my horizon,” says Collins. She thanks Cajilima for his “trust and faith in me”, and she points out that Skyline’s president, Stephan Andreatos is always available to answer her call. She thanks Peter Oxenham, Skyline’s senior estimator, for making his deep knowledge of the One Wall Street project, and his building restoration expertise, available to her.
Justine is passionate, hard-working, and dedicated. She ensures that the design intent is executed and maintained successfully throughout the duration of the project. I respect her work ethic – she wants the job done right.”
Kara Shypula, Assoc. AIA, Hoffmann Architects
Adaptability proved a valuable quality when the pandemic hit. Once the construction site reopened on June 1, Collins had to integrate multiple Covid-19 protocols. She continues to ensure that all requirements are adhered to daily.
Collins strongly believes that safety must always be first and foremost and she carefully schedules the day with foresight, as many subcontractors of various trades work simultaneously within the same space. “I have to be sure all my men and women go home safely at the end of the day,” she says.
Asked if being a woman in a traditionally male world is ever a hindrance, Collins responds, “I am very comfortable in my role here – I’ve gone on a Skyline fishing trip with 17 guys and it was great.” She adds, “I won’t allow disrespect. I’ve never felt that anyone thought I don’t know what I’m doing. Actually, everyone says ‘go to Justine’ when there’s a question.”
“Justine is aware of the common goal. She never focuses on problems, only on solutions. Some people veer away from pressure, she embraces it.”
Kevin M. Kelly, J.T. Magen
While men are more accustomed now to seeing women on job sites as women laborers are often present, Collins remembers her early mentor and admits she hasn’t met a woman in a similar role for 15 years. She acknowledges though that the number of women Assistant Project Managers and Project Managers is growing. “I try to convince women to get into this field as fast as possible,” she says.
Collins lives with her boyfriend, Eliott Morales, a personal trainer, and is close to her family including 17 young nieces and nephews. She tells the girls and boys alike to “follow your dreams and choose a career you love because then it won’t feel like work and you’ll look forward to Mondays.” She hopes all will find a path as rewarding as construction is to her.
Says Collins, “One of the most satisfying things for me is to walk the streets of Manhattan and say, ‘I had a part in building this.’ When I’m gone, the buildings will still be there.”
The buildings will surely include One Wall Street, a shining glory for New York City, for Justine Marie Collins, and for Skyline Restoration.