Whether on a construction site inches from the cliffs of Niagara Falls or revitalizing Main Street while a trolley passes through the site, these are just the kinds of challenges Mark Cerrone Inc. likes to tackle. The contracting group located in Niagara Falls, N.Y., delivers high-quality construction services on difficult and challenging projects.
“Safety and quality first is really what we practice,” Vice President George Churakos says. “We believe that’s how we make ourselves different and get the work we get.” The company specializes in services including site preparation, demolition, railroad construction, industrial maintenance, and landscaping.
Owner Mark Cerrone founded the company in 1999 and since then it has become one of the premier civil contractors in western New York. “We work to be best-in-class,” Churakos says. “We believe that our hard work and knowledge in the industry is setting us apart.”
Part of Niagara Falls State Park, Luna Island allows 10 million tourists annually to stand atop Niagara Falls and peer straight down into the waterfalls. The view is breathtaking as millions of gallons of water pour over Niagara Falls every minute, about 750,000 gallons every second. Because of the raging waterfalls, the $1 million Luna Island project required heightened safety measures for Mark Cerrone, Project Manager John Toscano says. “This is not somewhere you could slip,” Toscano explains.
Before work began on the island, all personnel were required to take safety orientation. Sign-in sheets were maintained and no person was allowed on the island alone. While railings were down, all personnel performing work within 15 feet of the water’s edge were required to be tied off with rope, Toscano says.
Mark Cerrone was hired to update the tourist location with new surfacing, railings, landscaping and site amenities. “We really transformed it,” Toscano says. “We were looking at something from the ‘60s and ‘70s that had been trampled for many years. It was in a state of disrepair and now it’s all brand-new.” New pavement was laid on the walkway, solid steel railings were put along the edge of the island – complete with footers poured into bedrock – and new greenery was planted to give a natural look to the island.
Limestone boulders from a local quarry were cut using a 64-inch-diameter saw attachment on a Komatsu 228 excavator. The boulders were cut and aligned offsite before being transported and placed on the island to contain the landscaped areas. The project began August 2012 and Mark Cerrone finished Luna Island less than one year later on June 8.
Gushing water wasn’t the only challenge on the island, as weight capacity and space were also daily concerns, Toscano says. Luna Island is only about 130 feet wide and 350 feet long, separating Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. Access to the island is gained by crossing a narrow bridge – six feet wide with an eight-ton weight limit - and it is the only way to enter or exit. Toscano says the crews had to take materials down piece by little piece to not exceed the weight capacity.
“Our company motto is safety and quality first,” Toscano says. “Obviously in this environment, it was something that had to be managed and watched daily because of the risks that were out there.”
Mark Cerrone was hired by the city of Buffalo to bring cars back onto Main Street. The company is working on the 600 Block Rehabilitation Project – the 600 block of Main Street. To rebuild the street, the company will repave the vehicle portion of the street with asphalt.
A new track bed and rail will also be laid for the trolley system. A rubber rail boot is to be placed along the track to prevent or lessen vibrations, Toscano says. Mark Cerrone will complete a two-block stretch – about 800 feet – from Chippewa to Tupper streets. The project is estimated to cost about $6 million.
Automobile traffic has been prohibited on Main Street since the 1960s when a trolley system was created in lieu of vehicle access. Because of this decision, businesses along Main Street have been suffering. “One of the complaints was that Main Street kind of died because there was no traffic on it,” Churakos says. “The hope here is that the street will be more active to the public. It’s to revitalize the downtown area.”
The company’s greatest challenge with the Main Street project is the trolley system that will continue to be active during construction. “This is the first block where the train comes up out of the tunnel,” Toscano says. “We have a lot of safety challenges with an active trolley.” Workers are reminded daily of the light rail operation and to stay alert. The company also stays in contact with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for any updates or changes to the trolley schedule.
Since completing about 60 percent of the stretch so far, Cerrone has also won the bid for the 500 block of Main Street – which is valued at close to $15 million. The cost is more than double the 600 block and Toscano says it is because the 500 block stretch is larger.
Mark Cerrone has worked with the city of Buffalo in the past and Churakos says he believes more is to come in the future.
“We have had a very committed governor, Andrew Cuomo, that has been really supportive of developing Buffalo,” Churakos says. “Western New York has been a vital part of the construction industry – more work and more opportunity.”