Iconic Lincoln Center Reimagined at the Hands of NYC Union Carpenters

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New York City is booming with cultural institutions. One such location that music performers and fans alike know about is the iconic David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. The 2,738-seat concert hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is most notably home to the New York Philharmonic. The iconic performance center underwent significant renovations over the past two years, all at the hands of NYC union carpenters.

With the onset of COVID-19, the opportunity presented itself to reimagine and renovate the existing structure in the middle of 2020. Working with a budget of roughly $550 million, this renovation is expected to provide a much-needed revamp to the Hall and is expected to finish in October of 2022. And this job was no easy task. It called for work to be done seven days a week for months with over 200 union carpenters working at times.

During that time, union carpenters primarily renovated the Hall’s public spaces, such as lobbies and the auditorium. The new lobby will have a lounge and bar area as well as a large screen to watch performances free of charge to the public, while the new auditorium will feature several improvements and alterations, such as the stage being pushed back to allow for improved acoustics.

Keeping the renovations on track, the General Contractor for the project, Turner, brought on a handful of subcontractors including Jacobson, Curtis, Commodore, Cavanaugh Wall, Consolidated Carpet, Infinite Glass and Metal, and several others.

In a music hall that’s the caliber of the David Geffen Hall, ensuring the audience has an enjoyable acoustics experience during opera, jazz and other performances is paramount. Union carpenters stopped at nothing to ensure this. John Meehan, a carpenter from Local 157 highlighted the special technique used to perfect acoustics, which includes gluing materials to the walls and then checking repeatedly for hollow points that could distort the acoustic levels. While this takes longer than other projects, it serves as an example of the quality union carpenters put into their work. These improved walls are expected to increase the clarity of the sounds in the Hall and provide for better performances.

David Geffen Hall will always have a special place in John’s heart as this project is his swan song. Once this job is completed, he will retire from the union after 26 years. It’s been a great place to work. The pay is great, and I feel goosebumps when working here just thinking about the performances this place has done, or will one day do, and I get to be a part of that.”

In addition to the acoustic work, union carpenters were responsible for the concrete work and carpet and wood flooring, as well as certain millwork. Ceilings were also installed along with drywall in and around the Hall. Furniture was also installed in the form of doors, stalls, and other items.

Lou Norelli, a District Council Rep and 36-year member of the union whose jurisdiction includes the David Geffen Hall, knows good work when he sees it and has a special appreciation for the work the members turned out on this job. “I want to thank everyone for the great job they’ve done over the year despite the challenges, including COVID issues, stoppages, health screenings, and more. It was truly terrific to see union carpenters get the job done the way they did. Every carpenter at Lincoln Center deserves an acknowledgement.”

Union members will have the privilege of being able to tell generations of New Yorkers that they helped improve one of Manhattan’s greatest concert halls. As the retiring John Meehan put it: “For a last job in my career, I’m grateful it could be at a place as monumental as the David Geffen Hall.”