Palumbo previously served on BTEA’s executive committee.

Robert Palumbo, the President and CEO of Cauldwell Wingate, was recently elected BTEA’s new secretary. Palumbo, who also serves as Vice President of the Contractors’ Association of Greater New York (CAGNY), has over 25 years of experience in the construction industry. At Cauldwell Wingate, a major pre-construction, construction management, and general contracting firm, Palumbo oversees the company’s overall operations, project management, and consulting services.

In the following interview, Palumbo discusses the value he sees in being part of the BTEA and how enabling commercial to residential buildings conversions could help ease New York City’s housing crisis.

 

BTEA: Can you tell us about Cauldwell Wingate, your history with the company, and the type of projects you work on?

ROBERT: Cauldwell Wingate is a 114-year-old, privately owned construction company based in New York City. As a member of CAGNY, we specialize in general building construction, encompassing ground-up residential projects, office interiors, and healthcare facilities. I’ve been with the organization for nearly a decade and have served as its president since late 2019.

 

BTEA: How did you get involved in the BTEA and why did you want to be a part of the association?

ROBERT: I was first introduced to the BTEA through my involvement with CAGNY. I quickly recognized the value of collaborating with other member associations to share ideas and solve common problems. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I joined the Executive Board, which coincided with a busy period for BTEA members, including a leadership change last year. Recently, the BTEA hosted several meet-and-greet events with City Council members. These gatherings are highly informative and provide an excellent platform for raising issues important to our members.

 

BTEA: What would you like to see BTEA focus on during your tenure as secretary?

ROBERT: In addition to prioritizing worker safety, the BTEA has significantly increased its focus on construction workers’ mental health. The construction industry faces some of the highest rates of suicide and addiction, and I am committed to continuing our efforts to remove the stigma surrounding these issues. By doing so, we can make it easier for those in need to seek help.

 

BTEA: You gave a terrific interview to the Observer earlier this year, focusing, in part, on the prospects of converting commercial to residential buildings in New York City. What are the challenges of bringing about these conversions?

ROBERT: We have to find ways to make conversions more appealing to the development community, including incentives and zoning changes. The fact is, New York City has an excess of commercial space and a significant housing deficit. We continue to run budgets and feasibility exercises on many of these types of projects and this can be an opportunity for substantial work for our membership while simultaneously easing the “housing crisis”.

 

BTEA: From a government or policy standpoint, what are some changes that you would like to see made that would help your business thrive?

ROBERT: Insurance is a major issue, with costs rising significantly each year. As long as New York has the Scaffold Law this trend is unlikely to change. We need logical and reasonable reforms because the current situation not only increases the cost of doing business, but also creates opportunities for fraud. Similarly, the Wage Theft Act, although well-intentioned, has its flaws. Its current wording allows responsible parties to evade accountability, unfairly penalizing construction managers and general contractors.