February 15, 2017
By Clifford Tucker
New York, NY – Mark Gregorio was up at 4:15 AM, hit the gym, and at work in the City before 6:00 AM. “It’s all good,” he said over lunch. “I am very lucky. I love what I do. I’m very fortunate to be in the greatest City of the world that continues to grow up.” Emphasis on the word “up.”
Mark leads TEI Group, one of New York City’s largest private elevator contractors. Currently, TEI Group oversees about seventy capital projects—installing new elevators or changing out major components.
After just a few minutes listening to Mark describe his profession, you start to see elevators for what they really are: vertical trains with over a hundred years of technological and legal history. After all, New York City is home to the first passenger elevator and hosts about twelve percent of all of the elevators throughout the United States. “There are some elevators running in this town that are upwards of 100 years old” said Mark.
The field is always changing though, from updating safety rules against electrocution to advancing technology that saves energy and increases security. “What they’re working on in the field today is very different from what I worked on 20 years ago,” he said. Mark began his career as a helper in the New York City Transit Authority. He was in the field as a member of IBEW, and then he took over TEI Group. When he first took the helm at TEI Group, it was just five (5) people. TEI Group now employs about 250 people, including 200 workers from Local 1 Elevator Constructors.
Elevator work is intellectually and physically rigorous. Many elevator technicians have electrical or engineering backgrounds and an aptitude for problem solving. “A lot of guys come out of the military,” specifically the Navy, said Mark. They can bend pipe and read complex mounting instructions and schematic diagrams. Even the physical work is intellectually demanding: How do you move a 10,000-pound piece of equipment from a loading dock to the fifty-first floor? How do you install 8 to 16 foot long guide rails into an existing building? “It’s a little heavier than a piece of paper or a box of paper clips,” said Mark. When a job is done right, an elevator technician might sign his or her name on the job site in a place that only another technician would see. “Like an artist,” said Mark.
In addition to training and skill, trust and proper processes help ensure safety. “You can’t really account for how many people have been saved by sitting down and reviewing proper procedure,” said Mark, explaining TEI Group’s regular safety training and job site inspections. “We’re around high voltage, high fall hazards, and moving equipment that can rip your arms off if you’re not paying attention. Any injury is serious.” Mark explained, “on any given job site, we have anywhere from one worker to as many as fifteen. Work teams need to develop a bond, trust each other with their lives. Literally.” That is why “to be safe, everything must be process driven at the end of the day,” said Mark.
Mark is looking towards the horizon. In addition to extensive training and sometimes military-level experience, he hopes that New York City advances licensing requirements for elevator work. On the technology side, “the latest innovation is destination-based dispatching,” he said, where the elevator can group riders together, make fewer trips, and ultimately, save energy.
Clifford R. Tucker, Esq. writes the column “On the Job” and is a trial attorney licensed to practice in New York and New Jersey. He can be reached by email at Clifford@LaborPress.org and by phone at 845-300-8239.