New York, NY – It’s roughly 40 miles between The World’s Most Famous Arena and Mike Farrelly’s home in Rockaway, NJ; and if the Knicks or Rangers run long, Madison Square Garden’s assistant chief electrician may not make it home to until well past midnight.
Sometimes, when things are really popping inside MSG and the Grammys or the Pope are in town, for instance, the 51-year-old married father of two might not make it home at all.
“People call me crazy — I change my life for my job; but I grew up in it, and I’ve been able to provide a better life for my family,” Farrelly tells LaborPress.
Farrelly is a second generation MSG electrician; his father Terrence worked in the renowned building for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2005 — the same year Mike came on the job.
Today, it’s not uncommon for the IBEW Local 3 electrician to be holed up alone inside the prestigious venue at 6:30 in the morning, scrutinizing plans and mapping out upcoming events over a Diet Coke or glass of water.
“‘Know your job, know your business’ — my father always instilled that in me,” Farrelly says. “Nobody can comment about you if you know your job, and you know how to do a job. And I like that. I love troubleshooting. That’s one of my fortes — I like getting involved in things.”
Farrelly is part of a 16-member electrical crew responsible for everything from powering the scoreboard for the Knicks and Rangers, to keeping the more than 100 moving lights arrayed across MSG’s mammoth roof and bays burning.
Know your job, know your business — my father always instilled that in me. Nobody can comment about you if you know your job, and you know how to do a job. And I like that. — MSG Assistant Chief Electrician Mike Farrelly.
Before applying for the union’s apprenticeship program at 19, Farrelly attended college in New Jersey, but quickly found academic life unfulfilling.
“I just wasn’t interested,” Farrelly says. “I told my father, ‘I want to do what you do.’”
With childhood memories of the rodeo, circus and Ice Capades stamped on his DNA, Farrelly wouldn’t actually make it into the union until he was 25. He started working at MSG — just the third shop in his union career — 13 years ago, just in time to spend two magical weeks actually working shoulder-to-shoulder with his dad Terrence.
“I went to work with him once or twice [when I was a kid] and it was the coolest thing ever,” Farrelly says. “I learned a lot from him. I tell guys that I work with now, I was like your kid [growing up around MSG.]”
Originally from the Bronx, Farrelly is also a keen student of labor history and understands the sacrifices others have made to make a dream job at MSG even possible.
“Unions are the reason people are getting what we’re getting,” he says. “They fought for these contracts. We demand a better rate, but we also give a great performance. People have got to appreciate it.”