The small-scale contracting business, founded in Brooklyn in 1918 by Italian immigrant Leon DeMatteis would, over the next 100 years, develop some of Manhattan’s most luxurious hi-rises, build up Long Island during the 1950s baby-boom, and erect New York City green schools, as well as take on countless public works projects.
The DeMatteis Organization’s story spans four family generations, paralleling the New York area’s growth and evolution. We’ve asked Richard and Scott DeMatteis to uncover their company’s success secrets.
Ten decades of expansion
When Leon DeMatteis, a craftsman plasterer and mason, emigrated from Italy, he opened a general contracting shop in Brooklyn. The year was 1918, neighborhoods were growing and the DeMatteis Construction company right alongside them. Then, work began to complete Bush Terminal (today’s Industry City) with factories and warehouses, and DeMatteis was there.
When Fred DeMatteis, Leon’s son, returned from serving in the U.S. Air Corps during WWII, he suggested the business relocate to Long Island. That move allowed the company to become part of the great post-war migration and the explosive building boom that followed, including the construction of schools, hospitals, libraries and housing units supporting Long Island’s expansive growth throughout the 1950s.
Later, during the 1960s, when the City of New York embarked on several initiatives to develop more subsidized housing, DeMatteis constructed some of the first Mitchell-Lama affordable housing towers.
In 1972, the third DeMatteis family generation entered the picture as Fred’s son Richard joined the firm. The company built several towers and was the construction manager of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Also, DeMatteis branched out and formed property manager RY Management Co., Inc.
During the 1980s, with an upswing in the economy, Fred’s younger son, Scott joined the firm and DeMatteis began turning its expertise into the construction of luxury towers like the Savoy, Carnegie Hill Tower and 100 United Nations Plaza. The company also developed and built Museum Tower, the first residential hi-rise built above an existing museum.
DeMatteis also planned, developed and constructed Long Island’s EAB Plaza (now RXR Plaza). Fred spearheaded the project and hoped Long Islanders would see it as bringing a little bit of Manhattan (ala Rockefeller Center) to the suburbs.
The company also handled a wide variety of private and public works projects including the Criminal Courts Building in Riverhead and the Towers at Portside. It reconstructed the Brooklyn Botanical Garden Conservatory and Palm House Complex and developed and built The Crescent (MET Life Headquarters) in Bridgewater, NJ.
Again, DeMatteis branched out; this time to form DM Airports Ltd. to operate and manage Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey.
In the 90s, DeMatteis completed two hospital renovations and expansions and built Tribeca Tower, a 52-story luxury apartment building, along with a diversity of other projects, including several New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA) structures.
DeMatteis continues its long-standing relationship with the NYCSCA today, building city schools like PS 143, PS 375 and the Academy of American Studies in Queens, NY, as well as PS 667 in Brooklyn, all of which broke ground this year, and incorporate NYC Green School Guide building standards.
The company’s portfolio has also included overseas endeavors – including constructing a $200 million, 13-building, Saudi Arabian National Guard Headquarters complex.
DeMatteis’ secret to 100 years of success
Principal/COO Scott DeMatteis says three factors are critical to the company’s success and longevity. “First and foremost, it has been the enduring vision of the company’s leadership through four generations,” he said. “This has allowed the company to grow and prosper despite the fluctuating economic highs and lows of the last century.”
According to fourth generation vice-president Alex DeMatteis, the company’s principals continue to be involved with all aspects of the firm. “The VPs of construction and development report directly to Richard and Scott, allowing the decision-making process to be uncomplicated and streamlined. Not only that, adding to seamless executive decisions is the ability of both principals to, essentially, read each other’s minds.”
Second, family values have been fostered throughout the company’s century-long history, resulting in pride, dedication and commitment from employees and subcontractors, Scott explains.
“Lastly, we credit the longstanding tenures of our core employees,” says Richard DeMatteis, co-principal and CEO. “Tenures of 20 to 50 years are not uncommon here at DeMatteis and that helps promote a strong and stable company capable of sustained growth.”
For the past 10 years, Alex and Michael DeMatteis (fourth generation), sons of Richard and Scott respectively, have been team members and are learning the ropes the way each preceding generation has: from the ground up.
Innovation and success go hand in hand
Through the company’s history, it has focused on staying current and ahead of industry trends. “Means and methods of construction are constantly evolving, we keep up with new developments through continued education of our staff and bringing in the brightest young talent in the industry to assist with recent technological advances,” said Steve Tartaro, vice-president of construction.
For the past decade, green building has been prominent, with the company working with cutting-edge and first-of-its-kind sustainable technologies. These have included the first net-zero energy school in the Northeast, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the first self-consolidating concrete structure, 28 stories fabricated to blast-criteria standards.
Other green projects include the eight schools currently being constructed for the NYCSCA as well as a 230,000 sq. ft. residential/inpatient facility for DASNY (The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York) and OMH (Office of Mental Health) in Staten Island.
“Through four generations, we have continued to uphold our reputation as a builder/developer connected to this great city,” Richard DeMatteis says. “Our core values of vision, quality, innovation, and integrity are still at the forefront of our company, starting at the top with leadership and flowing down through all departments within our organization.”
The next 100 years
Over its extensive history, numerous DeMatteis projects have received many industry awards. As a company, DeMatteis has been recognized in ENR’s Top Contractors, including as Top 100 Building Green Contractors.
“One hundred years and four generations just isn’t that common in any field of business,” Richard says. The core values of the company are directly connected to the individuals who run the company and have been passed down through generations.
“To be able to uphold the reputation that has been earned over those 100 years is especially important to the firm’s leadership and the success of The DeMatteis Organization. We thank everyone who has been a part of that success and we’re looking forward to another extraordinary 100 years!”