After 17 years and over 3,000 estimates, Skyline Restoration’s senior estimator, a mentor to many, retired earlier this year
PHOTO: SKYLINE RESTORATION
“The difference between a job and a profession, an avocation, is about finding people who feel the same as you do – who catch the spark. They become curious and want to satisfy their curiosity through the work environment,” said Peter Oxenham, senior estimator at Skyline Restoration who retired in July. Oxenham indeed lit that spark in those who worked with him throughout his 17 years and over 3,000 estimates for the company.
He joined Skyline Restoration in 2004, a fellow of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, following a 15-year career as an estimator and project manager. Initially hired as a project manager, his first assignment was for a large three-building project on Surf Avenue at Coney Island. The project involved ordering a massive amount of steel and customized brick plus designing scaffolding and rigging. Efficiency had to be maximized to accommodate the fast-track scheduling. As these were pivotal years when Skyline’s success on projects of growing magnitude continued to propel it to ever greater heights, the Coney Island project was one that, said Oxenham, “laid the groundwork for growth,” growth that quickly rose to monumental proportions.
Another early project manager job of Oxenham’s, also c.2004, was on parapets for a complex of buildings on 113th Street in Forest Hills. Here his focus was on the crew, as he needed to mobilize all to be more interactive and responsive to each other’s safety. His efforts proved to “have a real galvanizing effect in a very positive way” which greatly facilitated scheduling and, consequently, streamlined the workflow. “The job started to hum,” he recalled. Already he was being viewed as a mentor to many, a role he held onto throughout the years.
"The difference between a job and a profession, an avocation, is about finding people who feel the same as you do – who catch the spark"
Transition from Project Manager to Senior Estimator
By 2007, it became clear that a full-time estimator was needed at Skyline Restoration. Fortunately, it was equally apparent that Oxenham had a well-honed skill set that matched the rigors of the job.
“The estimator has to be able to assess project documents effectively, communicate well with members of the architectural and engineering team, the financials and other estimators,” he said. And that’s not the half of it.
"Not everyone is suited to the profession. Some simply find the multiple aspects 'too much' "
The estimator, explained Oxenham, sets up the conditions for the work to be performed. He, or she, establishes relationships with engineers, architects, vendors and clients; gains approval of materials; obtains permits so work can begin; produces a rigging plan and develops a timeline. All information is conveyed to the project manager and the sales team.
The estimator is also responsible for pricing change orders to amend contracts. The developer and construction management company must come to terms with these as they directly impact the timeline and vendor pricing.
Not everyone is suited to the profession, said Oxenham. Some prefer to work with their hands or to be in the field, some simply find the multiple aspects “too much.” Yet it continued to be the right fit for Oxenham who became Skyline Restoration’s senior estimator in 2007 and remained the only full-time person in that role until 2009 when other estimators joined the department, and the work became a team effort. By 2017, the year Skyline moved into its new state-of-the-art building on Long Island City, there were eight junior and senior estimators; the number had grown to 10 when he left this summer.
One of Oxenham’s most memorable projects as an estimator was for 874 Broadway, the MacIntyre Building (photo below). Skyline Restoration received the prized Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, sometimes referred to as the Oscars of preservation, from the New York Landmarks Conservancy for the historic project. As SKYlines reported in its premiere issue, Spring 2010, “This award is the Conservancy’s highest honor for outstanding preservation efforts.”
The building, said Oxenham, has an “extravagant array of ornamental features” composed of brick, stone and terra cotta. Estimators needed to have knowledge of historic structures and became “conversant with all material requirements.” It proved, in fact, to be an immersive learning experience on terra cotta for Oxenham.
PHOTO: SKYLINE RESTORATION
One Wall Street
The iconic One Wall Street project was “amazing from the start.” The largest office-to-residential conversion in the history of New York City, as SKYlines reported in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue #38, the project entailed extensive rigging, façade cleaning, stone replacement and opening up of the façade to accommodate windows and doors.
“It’s an Art Deco masterpiece,” that required constant and intensive interaction with and approvals from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Looking back on his years with Skyline Restoration, Oxenham acknowledged that he “became enriched” by the mentorship role and that most of all, he benefited from being with the right company and the right people.
“It’s pride of place. It’s a rare thing, to generate that type of atmosphere,” he said. Rare in any occupation, it is certainly so in the challenging and competitive construction arena.
“To maintain a sense of integrity about what you do, that’s kept us in a positive direction. Management and staff always made me feel I was important because I brought that work ethic to the job every day,” he said. It’s an ethic that enhanced the company and that made Peter Oxenham’s years with Skyline Restoration rewarding and meaningful. Clearly, he caught the spark early on and kindled it for those who worked with him.