The DeMatteis Organization/Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp.

DeMatteisThe DeMatteis Organization celebrates 100 years of developing and building innovative New York properties.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing 

Some companies choose to have only one specialty, but for the past century, The DeMatteis Organization has thrived by having several. Not only does the Elmont, N.Y.-based company practice real estate development and property management, “but we’re also a builder at heart,” Principal and COO Scott DeMatteis declares.

When The DeMatteis Organization develops a project, it is built through Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp. (LDDCC), its construction affiliate. This pleases its partners, who “are comforted that we’re going to control the project through both of the entities,” he says. “We’re not going to rely on other expertise.”DeMatteis info box

The roots of The DeMatteis Organization stretch back four generations, when Scott DeMatteis’ grandfather, Leon D. DeMatteis, started the company in 1918 after emigrating from Italy. The elder DeMatteis was a craftsman plasterer and mason who started his business as a small general contractor in Brooklyn, N.Y.

He initially specialized in renovation projects as well as the construction of factory lofts and warehouses at Bush Terminal, a waterfront shipping, warehousing and manufacturing complex also located in Brooklyn and now known as Industry City. In the 1930s, DeMatteis supported residential and business growth in the borough by building and renovating shops, offices and apartment buildings.

Growing Its Legacy

The second generation of DeMatteis family involvement began in the company when Leon DeMatteis’ son, Fred, joined in the 1940s. Fred DeMatteis had served in the United States Army Air Corps, which awarded him a Purple Heart. 

Soon afterward, the firm moved to its current home in Elmont, but also expanded its range of work. “They grew into houses, small offices and schools in post-war Long Island,” says Richard DeMatteis, Fred’s son and now a principal and CEO. 

LDDCC became involved in the building boom as it constructed schools to meet demand in the newly populated areas. During the 1950s, it constructed nearly 30 schools in Nassau County, N.Y., as well as hospitals, colleges and libraries.

In the 1960s, Fred DeMatteis’ brother, Alfonso, joined the business. LDDCC also took on initiatives to develop more subsidized housing, which included Mitchell-Lama affordable housing towers in the Bronx and Manhattan.  

Although the U.S. construction industry saw a decline in the early 1970s, the company continued to push forward with projects such as Ruppert-Yorkville Towers, which consisted of six 42-story towers in New York City.

According to Richard DeMatteis, the property was originally the site of the old Ruppert Brewery, which was closed in the 1960s and redeveloped as part of the city’s urban renewal program. “The Mitchell-Lama project was geared to providing middle-income housing, and Ruppert-Yorkville Towers were the springboard to the housing boom in the nearby area of the Upper East Side,” he says.

The company also formed its property management company, RY Management Co. Inc., which served the New York metro area. Today, RY manages more than 9,000 townhouses, rental apartments, cooperatives and condominiums.

Richard DeMatteis joined his family’s company in 1972, which happened at the same time that LDDCC won the $200 million Saudi Arabian National Guard Headquarters complex. The firm partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the 13-building project located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

“Talk about challenges,” Richard DeMatteis recalled in a statement. “We had to start from scratch, building an infrastructure including roads, a housing complex for 1,200 workers and a concrete batching plant.”

The company was also responsible for procuring cranes, trucks and materials from the United States. “The Saudi Arabia project was a real test of our skill at construction management and logistics,” he added.

On the Upswing 

Scott DeMatteis joined his brother Richard and father, Fred, at the company in the 1980s, which coincided with an economic upswing. LDCCC also began moving into building luxury towers, including The Savoy, Carnegie Hill Tower and 100 United Nations Plaza, all in New York City.

That same decade, the firm developed and built a project that remains a source of pride: EAB Plaza in Long Island, which would be later known as RXR Plaza. “We developed it along with European American Bank, which was a joint venture partner and major tenant,” Richard DeMatteis recalls. DeMatteis 2

The project, which spans more than 1 million square feet, was developed with Fred DeMatteis’ vision. “At the time, there was no class-A office space on Long Island that was equivalent to what was in New York City,” says Richard DeMatteis.

“Fred wanted to change all that by bringing a version of a Rockefeller Center to Long Island,” he continues. “The idea was to bring the community together with a public atrium, skating rink and an annual holiday tree lighting.”

The finished plaza, he notes, remains the premier office space on the island. “Today, it is still an iconic property,” he says. “Even after a name change, people still associate DeMatteis with those twin elliptical towers.”

The company also built structures that included Museum Tower, a luxury condo project in New York City. “[It] was the first luxury condominium built above a museum,” DeMatteis recalls. “The company purchased the air rights from the museum and built a 54-story, top-end condominium project right before the condominium craze that’s going on today.”  

The DeMatteis Organization took on private and public works projects, such as the Criminal Courts Building in Riverhead, N.Y., and won the commission to rebuild the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Conservatory and Palm House Complex, developed and built The Crescent, the Met Life headquarters in Bridgewater, N.J., and the Little Italy Restoration Apartments in Lower Manhattan.

In the 1980s, The DeMatteis Organization founded DM Airports Ltd. (DMAL), which has managed and operated the Morristown Municipal Airport in Hanover, N.J., for more than 30 years. “Under a unique 99-year lease/operating agreement, DMAL is responsible for all facets of the Airport’s operation, management and development,” the company says.

Going Public

In the 1990s, LDDCC focused on building more public works projects. This included two hospital renovations and expansions as well as Tribeca Tower, a 52-story luxury apartment building in New York City.

The company’s portfolio grew to include the Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow, N.Y., naval housing for Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, N.Y., U.S. post offices in Brooklyn and the 492,000-square-foot East Parking Garage for John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y. The DeMatteis Organization also saw the start of its long partnership with the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA).

In the 2000s, Richard DeMatteis was joined in the business by his son, Vice President Alex DeMatteis, who represented the fourth generation of family involvement. During this time, the company also developed and constructed Chelsea Tower, a 33-story luxury rental tower in New York City.

Richard DeMatteis also highlights Azure, a 32-story tower that the company built in Manhattan in 2009. “That’s a high-rise, luxury condominium on First Avenue, with a successful middle school, MS 114, attached to it,” he adds.

In recent years, The DeMatteis Organization has moved into green building, with projects such as P.S. 62, the first net-zero-energy school in the northeastern United States. Located on Staten Island, the $70 million project included innovations such as a high-performance envelope, geothermal mechanical systems, solar thermal and photovoltaic panels, and a green roof.

“Since it had never been done before, there was a lot of talk between the engineers, mechanical contractors and ourselves to overcome the obstacles,” Vice President of Construction Steven Tartaro recalls. “It recently has been certified that it has achieved Net Zero status and that all systems are working properly.”

The company has established a leadership position in the construction of K-12 school facilities in the New York City metro area. It received the 2008 Build New York Award for its work on the Bathgate High School in the Bronx, while its portfolio also includes the Mott Haven Campus in the Bronx, and the Metropolitan Campus, the Glen Oaks Campus, and the Frank Sinatra High School of Arts in Queens.

Outside the Box

Another jewel in the DeMatteis portfolio is the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, the first self-consolidating concrete structure. Standing 28 stories and covering 140,000 square feet in mid-town Manhattan, the office complex is fabricated to blast-criteria standards. 

At the time, Vice President of Construction Salvatore Novello says, the project was one of a kind. “It had not been done in the United States or the world,” he recalls. “There was nothing really developed in terms of means, methods or procedures of how to do it.”

It took LDDCC a year to develop plans that would allow the project to be successful. “The complications really required a lot of engineering and thinking,” Novello says, noting that this marked the first time the company had worked with self-consolidating concrete, which can be very viscous. 

It also required tolerances in the formwork and placement structures. “We learned somewhat from some European methods of bridge abutment work [where the concrete was used],” he continues. “Through a lot of painstaking trial and error, we had off-site mockups being done to develop our process and created some equipment to make it feasible.”

Today, the exterior of the building has the appearance of limestone, but still has the ability to endure a 500-pound TNT blast. “We really thought outside the box,” he declares. “It was a massive foundation on top of a foundation, on top of a foundation. We had a lot of contractors in the New York area that were shy of this.”

But the hard work paid off. The project earned the company awards from the American Concrete Institute, and it was asked to do a presentation to New York City engineers on how it was done with the placement of reinforcing steel. 

Scott DeMatteis notes that the ultimate success of the project reflects The DeMatteis Organization’s willingness to team together on a project and find a solution. “Everyone rolled up their sleeves and thought outside the box to achieve something that to this day is still a spectacle to see,” he says.

The Family Business

In the 2010s, Scott DeMatteis’ son, Site Superintendent Michael DeMatteis, joined the company, which keeps evolving to industry changes in construction and development. This has included implementing the use of building information modeling (BIM), which is being used on projects like the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island. 

The $200 million project, which is being built for the New York State Office of Mental Health, will meet LEED Silver guidelines. According to Staten Island Real-Time News, the 232,000-square-foot building will include adult and adolescent behavioral healthcare beds, a dental clinic, a pharmacy and administrative support spaces.

The DeMatteis Organization, which now employs a staff of 100 employees, has prospered thanks to its range of specialties. “It gives us a lot of diverse opportunities,” Scott DeMatteis says, noting that the company is particular in what it takes on.

“It’s the challenge and uniqueness of a project that attracts us,” he says. “Over the years, we have been involved in many projects that required outside-the-box thinking – something we feel we do extremely well.

“The uniqueness aspect is tied directly to the fact that the skyline of New York City is constantly evolving – us, being a part of that is a real accomplishment,” DeMatteis says. “We like to do projects that are intriguing and that rely on everyone to put their arms and head around them.”

Adapting to Change

The DeMatteis Organization has seen many industry changes over the last century. For example, “Over the last several years, the condo high-rise market has been on fire,” Scott DeMatteis says.

But nothing lasts forever. “It’s cooling off a little bit right now,” he admits, adding that the biggest change in the company’s industry currently is the move to open-shop construction in private projects that are not being built with 100 percent union employees.

However, “That is an industry change that we’ve been seeing for quite some time,” he notes, adding that The DeMatteis Organization has adapted. “We’ve positioned the company to be able to do public works fully union and private work where we’re using the open shop method.” 

The DeMatteis Organization has found it increasingly challenging to develop a project. In the last eight years, “The financing of the high-rise projects, particularly in a residential area, has been problematic,” Executive Vice President Alan Sullivan admits.

“Banks are requiring larger chunks of capital, the price of land has gone up very quickly and competition is fierce,” he continues, noting that The DeMatteis Organization is not alone in these conditions. 

“Everybody is having the same issues,” he says. “The requirements of the city to get the normal subsidies and zoning enhancements are getting tougher.”

But this, Scott DeMatteis notes, is a good example of how the company can overcome challenges by having both construction and development divisions. When one is moving slow, the other can keep the firm busy. “We’d like to try to find that balance between the construction and development, but when we’re in these hiatuses, we focus heavily on the construction,” he says.

Alex DeMatteis agrees. “Our construction arm is extremely busy at the moment,” he says, noting that LDDCC has eight projects currently being constructed in New York City’s five boroughs. “This is directly attributed to public agencies like the NYCSCA, who are continuing to bid out work.”

But the company has not given up on developing. “We are forging ahead and actively pursuing potential developments in the New York metro area,” he adds.

Corporate Continuity

One aspect that continues to set The DeMatteis Organization apart is the longevity of its team. While the average employee has about 25 years with the company, some have up to 50 years with the firm, Scott DeMatteis notes.

Some, he says, join the company after graduating from college and stay with it, due to their enjoyment of the type of construction the company performs as well as its atmosphere. “We are a very hands-on organization, which goes back to our roots,” he says.

At the time The DeMatteis Organization was founded, managers took more of a hands-on approach to their work. “In today’s world, a lot of corporate structures are not as ‘roll-up-your-sleeves, hands-on’ as we are,” he says. 

“We are a family-like group of people here who love what they do as they dive into each and every project,” he says, noting that this philosophy is shared by the highest level of managers at The DeMatteis Organization. 

“Richard and I don’t look at things from an executive level high in the sky,” he asserts. “We are working hand-in-hand with everybody.”

Richard DeMatteis adds that the company operates with less layers of bureaucracy than competitors and its managers are approachable to everyone. “No one is ever afraid to speak to someone who is not their immediate superior,” he says. “Our management style is casual.”

One longtime employee who is very satisfied with The DeMatteis Organization’s environment is Novello. When he joined the firm in 1985, he came on as a mason tender while his uncle worked in the firm as a laborer, which reflects how associates at the company can span generations.

“Over the last 33 years, I’ve grown with the company,” he says, noting that he had the good fortune to be mentored personally by Fred and Alfonso DeMatteis as he moved up the ranks. “There’s a lot of longevity here. It is a very strong family organization and they’ve always allowed us to grow with the company.”

The DeMatteis Organization also provides its employees with the benefit of continuous development, through such opportunities as classes, training programs, in-house seminars and meetings with its staff. “In order to maintain high-safety standards, we require constant safety training and certification,” Scott DeMatteis says.

But the areas of training do not stop at safety. “Continual education for LEED certification, new technology and skill advancement is not only encouraged, but strongly supported by the company,” he adds.

Corporate Continuity

The low turnover at The DeMatteis Organization has helped it cope with the current industry shortage for skilled manpower. “We like to promote from within and teach them our way of doing things,” Tartaro says. 

“What we find when we go to outside sources is a lot of people get bumped up without the technical knowledge that it takes time to accumulate,” he adds. “It makes it much more difficult to pick from the pool that is out there.”

But that does not immediately eliminate applicants. When the company does go outside its walls to find new associates, it looks for those who have longevity with previous employers. “We also look for people who demonstrate the ability to be team players and show the capability of being self-motivated with an eagerness to learn,” Tartaro says.

“We focus more on finding the person with the right makeup for the fabric of our company rather than the perfect skill set and technological background,” he says, “as it is our belief that we cannot change an individual, but we can train an individual for any technical deficiency they may have.”

When new employees arrive at the company, they are trained by its veteran associates. “They all started with us as young men,” Richard DeMatteis says. “They are now teaching the next group of young men coming into the business the continuity of the corporate philosophy. They will pass it down to the group that will ultimately replace them.”

Safe and Sound

LDDCC values safety as one of the most important factors on its projects. “It’s one of the biggest things we focus on to keep our EMR down,” Novello says. 

For its large-scale projects that require a lot of personnel, “We will engage our safety managers with outside sources,” he says. “We think it’s important that all of our people are trained with the OSHA certification required by New York City.”

The company also avoids accidents by keeping Novello and Tartaro involved with the initial planning stages of projects. “Steve and I sit in these planning meetings to make sure the proper methods are implemented,” Novello says, noting that this includes the use of protection netting on its projects.

The firm also maintains a corporate safety officer and makes sure that a safety associate is implemented on each project. “We think that’s so important,” he says.

Key Players

The DeMatteis Organization places a strong value on its subcontractors. “A good general contractor can only do so much,” Richard DeMatteis says, noting that subtrades are key to each project’s success.

The company maintains a good relationship with these companies by being open minded and listening to their concerns. This has not only allowed the firm to nurture a very loyal group of subs, but also earned it the Builder of the Year Award from the Subcontractor Trade Association in 2017. “That tells you how the people who are working for you feel about you,” DeMatteis says.

Scott DeMatteis adds that many of its subcontractors are generational, like The DeMatteis Organization’s own employees. “Their sons have taken over and now work for us as subcontractors as well,” he says.

“We call the DeMatteis umbrella a very loyal group of subcontractors that we respect,” he says. “They respect us also and enjoy the working relationships that they have.”

DeMatteis sees a strong future for the company, as the third generation is preparing its succession plan. “We’re mentoring the fourth generation to come in and over time take over the reins and continue the legacy,” he says. 

Family Expertise

The DeMatteis Organization’s management team includes many seasoned veterans, including Richard DeMatteis, who has more than 45 years of experience in the construction and real estate business. In his role, he is responsible for the firm’s overall strategic objectives.

During his time at The DeMatteis Organization, DeMatteis established it as a leader in construction and the development of luxury and affordable housing. Under his tenure, RY Management Co. has been responsible for more than 9,000 units.

Scott DeMatteis also brings more than 30 years of experience. “[He] has established himself as a leader among New York area’s developer/builders,” the company says, noting that he is involved with all aspects of the firm.

DeMatteis has an extensive background in design and building construction, which has enabled him to coordinate closely with architects and engineers. “He participates in the planning, design, pre-construction and construction phases of all projects,” the company says.

He also oversees RY Management Co. and D.M. Airports, and is head of the company’s involvement with multiple industry organizations. These include the NY Building Contractors Association, the New York chapter of The American Institute of Architects, the Associated General Contractors of New York State LLC, the Society of American Military Engineers, and the Society for College and University Planning.

As a fourth-generation member of The DeMatteis Organization, Alex DeMatteis is involved with all aspects of the company. After working for the firm’s construction affiliate, “[He] brings a sophisticated building perspective to the development effort,” it says. “By working closely with other members of the executive team, [he] provides a coordinated approach between the construction and development teams operating at the forefront of The DeMatteis Organization.”

He also is responsible for prospecting and evaluating feasibility for new developments and providing asset management oversight of the company’s existing properties. Previously, DeMatteis worked as a site superintendent for LDDCC, where his duties included site supervision and acting as a liaison with city agencies.

Michael DeMatteis, another fourth-generation member at DeMatteis, is currently a site superintendent. He just recently completed work on I.S. 323 and an existing hospital renovation in Manhattan’s West Village for LDDCC. “By working closely with DeMatteis’ field and office staff, [he] has built upon his educational backgrounds with real world experience in construction business management,” The DeMatteis Organization says.

“Our staff includes a broad, experienced pool of talent, both in development and construction, who have risen through our ranks and accumulated vast backgrounds having worked on countless projects in both the private and public sectors,” says Richard DeMatteis.

An Enviable Record

Over the years, RY Management has established itself as one of the premiere property management firms in the New York metro area. “We have an enviable record of providing professional, innovative and cost-effective services to clients,” it says. “This is a primary reason why RY Management has continued to develop and thrive in long-term property management relationships.”

The company offers a broad array of services to clients. “From physical plant maintenance, energy-saving programs and security issues to compliance construction expertise and staff supervision, RY Management is involved in every aspect of property management,” it says. “We are known for delivering outstanding results through superior performance that often exceeds expectations.”

This has helped the company thrive in New York, which it says stands as America’s toughest market. “As an industry leader, RY Management has continually leveraged its proven expertise across a wide range of multiple dwellings to provide solutions about purchases, safety issues, personnel and more,” it says. 

Currently, RY Management represents more than 9,000 townhouses, rental apartments, cooperatives and condominiums in New York, and has managed several of them for years. “Residents of RY-managed buildings not only enjoy peace of mind, but also a better quality of life,” it says.

“This is because our buildings – from the sidewalks and entranceways to the public areas and facility operational spaces – are conspicuously safe, clean and comfortable,” the company says. “In a real sense, RY Management excels because of how we attend to building needs and respond personally and promptly to resident, owner and board requests through our quality staff and professional property managers.”

RY Management currently employs 95 management associates that oversee more than 700 on-site maintenance and security personnel. “Since 1980, we have managed small, medium and large-sized buildings with a hands-on, small-firm feel,” it says. “The reputation of RY Management has enabled our company to continually attract quality staff and property managers who are among the best in the industry.”

SIDEBAR – The New Standard

Sustainability remains an important focus for The DeMatteis Organization, which has completed many green projects over the years. These include a $220 million, 425,000-square-foot storage and maintenance facility for the New York City Department of Sanitation.

The LEED Gold project included a green roof and a specially- designed glass curtain wall with a motorized sunshade façade. “Green construction has quickly become an industry standard over the past 10 years and continues to be prevalent in both the public and private sectors,” Alex DeMatteis says. “Our involvement with some of the ‘first of its kind’ green projects demonstrates our firm’s ability to take on innovative projects.”

SIDEBAR – High Standards

The DeMatteis Organization says it has established itself as a leader through value-added construction and development services for its clients. “Through proficient planning and execution by our team, we aim to keep our clients’ best interests first while executing our duties in an expedited manner,” it says.

As part of that focus, The DeMatteis Organization places a strong emphasis on its core values, including its company vision. “A unique, intrinsic quality of our company, our vision propels us to excellence,” it says. “We clearly identify our clients’ goals and visualize innovative solutions, using careful planning, foresight and proactive communication to achieve unparalleled results.”

Quality also is held in high regard. “We provide outstanding service through teamwork, experience, accountability and innovation — all of which is reflected in the quality of our results,” the company declares.

Innovation is a priority as well. “We continually seek new and enterprising ways, whether technology — or process-based — to meet our customers’ needs and exceed their expectations,” The DeMatteis Organization says.

Finally, integrity is an important value as well. “A tradition of ethical and honest business conduct is the cornerstone of our business philosophy and the foundation of our entire organization,” it says.

SIDEBAR – Eye for Detail

The DeMatteis Organization’s services also include construction management. “With its owner/developer’s eye for detail, DeMatteis provides an invaluable ingredient to successful development by preparing precise budget estimates and dependable project schedules to preserve the reliability of the largest component of a development budget – the cost of construction,” it says.

“By also having some LEED certified personnel, we are able to maintain the strict requirements that follow certain programs to achieve the target rating of a green project,” the company says.

The DeMatteis Organization also takes on design/build projects. “Having in-house registered architects on the development team [allows] DeMatteis to have a significant role in the pre-construction aspects of a development project,” it says. “Designing and building a structure with the highest and best use in mind, we are able to find the maximum amount of buildable square feet for a project to be successful.”

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