Scott Wolkowitz, BTEA’s new treasurer.

Scott Wolkowitz, BTEA’s newly elected treasurer, represents the third generation of his family to be involved in the Building Trades Employers’ Association. As CEO of Wolkow Braker Roofing Corp. he currently oversees a team of 170 industry professionals. In addition, Scott is Vice President of the Roofing & Waterproofing Contractors Association of New York, a trustee for Local 8, and a board member for the North American Roofers Insurance (NARI). In the following interview, Scott shares his thoughts on the current state of New York City’s construction industry and explains why he believes that a strong BTEA benefits all New Yorkers.


BTEA: Talk about your history with Wolkow Braker and the type of projects your company works on.

I’m fourth generation in the business. We’ve been operating under the Wolkow Braker name since 1944, so we’re celebrating our 80th anniversary this year. My great uncle and my grandfather really made the business what it was in the ’70s and ’80s, and we have long-standing clients—contractors, building owners, REITs—that we’ve been working with for multiple decades. I took over from my father as the president of the company at the end of 2014. There are no other family members currently in the business besides my dad, who is still around as a consultant and comes in a couple mornings a week. At Wolkow, we’ve had two general rules that I think have helped us survive all these years. One is that you couldn’t come right into the business; you had to work outside for a number of years. And the other is we never let non-working relatives take an ownership position in the business. I think it’s really made things simple; everyone that has owned the company worked in the company. We didn’t have family members with ownership that knew nothing about construction. I started my career interning for Turner Construction on the Yankee Stadium project, and I also worked for Hunter Roberts for a number of years as a project manager on site before I went into Wolkow. The size of our staff expands and contracts a little bit, but right now we’re running about 170 employees, including office, roofers and waterproofers, sheet metal workers, and Teamster drivers. Although roofing comes at the end of our name, we do a lot of interior work, interior waterproofing. Obviously, we do roofing too—quite a bit of sheet metal metal roofing, metal siding, metal panels. So those are really our core businesses.

 

BTEA: How did you first get involved in the BTEA?

I always knew about the BTEA. I remember my dad and grandpa taking me when I was about a year out of college to a BTEA event at Cipriani downtown. Believe it or not, my great uncle was involved in the BTEA in the ’70s and ’80s. And my dad told me, which I didn’t know, that he was on the safety committee in the early ’90s. I’ve been on the executive committee since 2017 and I got involved because I was starting to get very active in my association and my association exec recommended that I be on the executive committee.

 

BTEA: Why is the BTEA important to you?

The BTEA represents so many amazing contractors that contribute so much to the city. A strong BTEA means that New York City and the New York City construction and real estate development will be that much stronger. To me, they go hand in hand.

 

BTEA: What do you want to focus on during your tenure as BTEA’s treasurer?

I want to do my part to strengthen the quality and reputation of the BTEA. I also want to be a voice for subcontractors, as we are a subcontractor and more of a specialty subcontractor.

 

BTEA: What’s your take on the current state of the construction industry in New York City and what would you like to see changed or improved to help it thrive?

There’s a lot of change going on, and the changes locally to the city, the changes in government, the economic changes, the global changes, they all have significant impacts on our day-to-day work. They’re impacting materials that we have to get in from all over the world. They’re impacting financing. They’re impacting everything. We’re also seeing the types of projects in New York City that we’re bidding on change; there’s not as many high-rise office buildings going up. There’s a lot of health care. There’s a lot of work at the airports. There’s a lot of government work. So, at Wolkow we’re constantly trying to stay current with those changes. At the same time, we’re fighting a lot of competition. We’re fighting a lot of non-union contractors. We’re fighting a lot of open shop competition. So, we need to keep up with the change and we need to produce at a high level to continue to separate ourselves from the pack, so that people choose to go with us instead of the various other options that are out there. It’s not easy. A big change that happened from a subcontractors’ standpoint was they passed a bill to reduce retainage to 5%, improving cash flow and improving retainage reduction across the board. I’m not sure if that’s being rolled out yet, but that would be a huge win for the subcontractors. Then there’s insurance. In New York we have the Scaffold Law, and we’re unlike any other state in the country in that regard. I’m a board member of NARI—that’s our insurance captive. Wolkow belongs to an insurance captive with 25 other roofing companies from across the country, and we see the insurance that contractors pay in other states. We have to carry higher policies to work in New York. So, New York, especially New York City, from an insurance perspective is unlike any other area in the country, and it would be helpful if the Scaffold Law were repealed, not just for me, but I think the whole BTEA would be high-fiving.