Posted on May 7, 2022 at 8:38 pm by West Side Rag
By Margie Smith Holt
The tulips are blooming and construction is booming all around the American Museum of Natural History. Walk around the perimeter on a nice day and you’ll see the workers building the museum’s new science center enjoying their lunchbreak. And along with the spring weather, there’s a noticeable sense of pride in the air.
“I love it! It’s my passion!” said Haloon Hoofah of Ozone Park, Queens. “It’s going to be a monument. It’s going to be here for a very long time. So my son’s kids will probably be coming here.”
A member of the Cement & Concrete Laborers’ Local 20 and foreman for COST of Wisconsin construction services, Hoofah was manning the gate to the construction site when the West Side Rag caught up with him.
‘We’re pretty much responsible for the shotcrete,” he said, explaining the process of spraying rather than pouring concrete. “Instead of the normal pouring of concrete in a bucket, we’re using a hose with the pressure pump to blow out the concrete…this is gonna be a pretty nice piece of work!”
Hoofah’s son is still a baby, too young to visit. “I’ve been here, though,” he added. “My first class trip! Back in the ‘90s.”
Hoofah remembers riding the yellow bus from P.S. 55 in Richmond Hill with his best friend. The boys were excited to see the dinosaurs “because we thought they were live dinosaurs!” he laughed. “We were little kids.”
Steve Marshall also remembers visiting the museum on a school trip when he was growing up in the Bronx. Now he’s a carpenter, on the job eight months or so, and looking forward to bringing his daughter when the new wing is finished.
“When it’s all open, I can bring her here. And just say, you know what? I did this. I was a part of this.
“I feel really good about it,” Marshall said. “Even when I’m gone, my kids’ kids’ kids [could come here]…And they could say, you know what? My father did this. My dad did this…It will be history and it will be here forever.”
Marshall was having lunch on a bench on Columbus Avenue with his friend Sylvester Lawrence of Brooklyn, a laborer who had been on the job just five days.
“The carpenters drop stuff. We sweep, we clean. Keep the area clean. That is my job. I like it,” said Lawrence. “I would like to see it when it’s finished. It’s going to be very beautiful.”
Wazim Bacchus, a steel laborer from Queens, has also been on the job about eight months.
“I sort out the steel, I carry the steel in for the lathers, and they install it,” he said. “It’s a good site to work on. I mean, it’s part of history…I can bring my kids to this. Other buildings I do, I can’t really go in afterwards.”
Bacchus takes home pictures to show his 6-year-old daughter, Mia, what he’s been working on.
“I’m telling her, OK, Daddy will bring you here so you can see it when it’s finished…She’s just excited to come see what I’ve built!”
The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation is scheduled to open next winter.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve done,” Bacchus said. “When it’s all finished, how’s it going to look?
“It’s a lot of hard work we put into this. Can’t wait!”
Neither can we!