Stone World

Re-emerging:<br>Three generations of stoneworking

June 8, 2004


A great amount of history and experience is behind the name A. Ottavino Corp. As a third-generation stoneworking facility in Ozone Park, NY, the company has provided material for a number of prestigious projects around the New York Metropolitan area.

“My grandfather, Adamo Ottavino, came over from Italy in 1906, when he was 16,” said Kate Ottavino, company treasurer and head of the conservation/preservation division. “He opened his own company in 1913 after apprenticing, where he learned to cut granite. With that skill, he was able to open his own monument business. He carved and installed them. The company then expanded into the design and construction of mausoleums.”

For many years, the company specialized in the monument market, with the Archdiocese of New York being one of its largest clients. “In the 1940s, my father, George Ottavino, graduated from architecture school,” said Ottavino. “He brought the business into the building and stone manufacturing industry. These were the next developments in the company's evolution.”

Today, the company is under the direction of Mohamed Elkordy, president, and is owned by Kate Ottavino, her two sisters -- Meg Ottavino, vice president, who runs the retail monument division located in Westbury, Long Island, and Sallie Ottavino Elkordy who is in charge of marketing. “My father had two other brothers in the business with him, John and Gerald,” said Ottavino. “My sisters and I have a genuine interest in the industry. I guess that's from growing up in the business.”

The operation

The 35,000-square-foot stone-processing facility, which is based in Queens, includes another 20,000 square feet of open yard. Equipment consists of two Patch Wagner bridge saws, two Patch Wagner wire saws, two Patch Wagner grinding machines, three Gardner lapping beds and two 25-ton P&H cranes. The shop, which has the capabilities to flame granite slabs, also provides secure storage for the company's historic stone cutting tools, which are used to replicate historical finishes.

“As an outgrowth of our tradition of creating monuments and buildings, we moved into restoration,” said Ottavino. “One of our most prestigious restorations is the Temple of Dendur, which came over from Egypt in 1968 as a gift to the U.S. This project put our reputation in the forefront of restoration and conservation practice.” The historic piece of art was made of sandstone and received by the U.S. in 1968. It was awarded to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1965, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978.

“We're basically involved in every facet of the stone industry,” said Ottavino, adding that the company is comprised of 24 employees, including interior and exterior setting crews. “We sell stone all over the country. In terms of installation, we work in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington, DC areas mainly.”

A. Ottavino Corp. runs one 8-hour shift five days a week. “One of the wonderful things about starting out in monuments is that long-term, we have and continue to do, work [in that field]. The City of New York looks to us because we have a history in the business, and they know that they can turn to us in short notice and still be assured of the highest quality and value in stone. We did a lot of work after 9/11. There were times when we were working 24 hours a day. All of the installation crews and stone carvers were marvelously dedicated. Some even came in on Saturdays after long overtime weekdays. It was an inspiring and exhausting experience.

“We are third generation, and many of our workers are also second generation,” continued Ottavino. “Continuity is really wonderful -- especially in stone, when you need to work as a team. It increases the level of safety and quality of work.”

A broad range of projects

According to Mohamed Elkordy, the company is expanding and branching out into other areas of the country. “We're not just working in the Metropolitan area,” he said. “We can bring in very large quarry-sized blocks. We have the ability to shape with the wire saw, and we have our own stone carvers. We do mostly dimensional stone, but we also do some tile work on interiors. We offer our clients complete turnkey projects -- from fabricating the stone to installing it.”

At St. James Church -- located on Madison Avenue and 71st Street in Manhattan -- A. Ottavino Corp., working with Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects, is replacing the entire floor in the Sanctuary and parish house with French limestone and some mosaics. “It's a very interesting and detailed project,” said Elkordy. “Our shop is not a typical slabbing shop. We pride ourselves on our ability to do unique projects, but we certainly have the capacity to do simple and straightforward jobs as well.”

Another involved project that the company worked on was at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which sits at 945 Madison Avenue and 75th Street in New York City. “Working with Wiss Janney Elstner, PE, we re-clad the museum using the original granite,” said Elkordy. “We had the ability to take all the stone off the building and lay it out in our stoneworks where it was re-cut for re-anchoring with a new anchor system. Because of our facilities, we were unique in our ability to do much of the work off site, enabling the museum to remain open while we were restoring it.” The exterior facade featured French Creek granite, a local stone where the vein runs from the Palisades in New York to Pennsylvania.

“We like to get involved in a broad range of project types,” said Ottavino. “We enjoy working with the architects and artists one-on-one. Designers collaborate with us so that they can understand how to design most effectively with stone to achieve the visual aesthetic they are looking for, while being cost effective.”

Several other notable projects that A. Ottavino Corp. is responsible for include the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the carving and installation of the Eternal Flame Memorial and Korean Veterans War Memorial -- both in Battery Park in New York City. The company recently completed the prototype for the Port Authority Holland Tunnel project, which required replicating the original tooled finish on salvaged Rockport granite, which is no longer quarried, from its historic stone inventory.

End box
A. Ottavino Corp., Ozone Park, NY

Type of work done: Interior and exterior architectural stone work, monuments and mausoleums; stone carving; historic restoration; stone tile and mosaics

Machinery: two Patch Wagner bridge saws; two Patch Wagner wire saws; two Patch Wagner grinding machines, three Gardner lapping beds, two 25-ton P&H cranes, historic and contemporary stone carving and finishing tools

Number of Employees: 24