Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

Thruway Exits 10 and 11 Southbound will be Closed Overnights thru July 2

It happens in one and one-half hours:

Thruway Exits 10 and 11 entrance ramps southbound will be closed every night from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. thru Thursday, July 2. Reason: part of a $16.2 million highway and ramps repaving project that includes safety upgrades.

 Note: The photo above is not I-87/I-287 in South Nyack & is indicated for signage only.

Note: The photo above is not I-87/I-287 in South Nyack & is indicated for signage only.

Detour signs will be posted.

The Thruway Authority will activate variable message signs (VMS) and highway advisory radio (HAR) 530 AM to advise motorists of the closures throughout the duration of work.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Morning, Evening Lane Closures for This Week

If you’re on the road in the wee hours:

One northbound lane of the Thruway from the bridge to Exit 11 will be closed tomorrow (Monday) from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday one lane is closed from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m.

If you’re crossing the bridge northbound Tuesday and Wednesday nights . . .

Note: The photo above is not the New York State Thruway

Note: The photo above is not the New York State Thruway

Three lanes from Exit 9 (Tarrytown) to Exit 11 will close incrementally with the first lane at 8 p.m., second lane at 9 p.m., and the third lane at 11 p.m.; all will reopen the following day at 6 a.m. Thursday (July 2). One lane will be open at all times.

All four lanes northbound lanes will periodically close near Exit 11 from Tuesday at 8 p.m. to Wednesday at 6 a.m. Ramps will remain open during this time. State police will be stopping and holding traffic before the lanes are closed so construction crews can move equipment from the right shoulder to the left.

Note that access to the Thruway southbound will be via Route 59 in Nyack Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. while the Exit 10 off-ramp is temporarily closed.


The closures will allow TZC to safely install the foundations for a new temporary all-electronic toll collection system that will be employed until a permanent system is constructed in the location of the current toll plaza in Tarrytown.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Kristina Benza Blazes her Trail with STEM Career

Her difficult junior high AP calculus class and teacher proved valuable years later.

Kristina Benza, County Fabricators, LLC

Kristina Benza, County Fabricators, LLC

“He gave us test problems we’d never seen before with the philosophy ‘you’re taking notes in class and gathering tools needed to solve a problem,’” Kristina Benza said.

That lesson stayed with her, and today the 26-year-old continues to problem-solve as president of County Fabricators, LLC, in Pleasantville, NY. Her LEGO® display in the reception area is indicative of the put-together kits she played with as a child in-between making her own inventions.

“She had an incredible appetite for how things worked,” her uncle Philip Benza said, noting she built a working elevator for a school science project.

Benza earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in science and was one of the first recipients of the Louis G. Nappi Construction Labor-Management Scholarship for students interested in applied science, math and engineering.

The Rockland County Times recently spoke with Benza about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), running a company and setting examples.

How do you feel about heading your own company?

Every day has its own challenge. A lot of times I feel I jumped into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no life preserver and a rudimentary understanding of how to swim.

My family’s been involved with civil construction, and I grew up learning and studying, working on whatever project they were doing. There’s a gravitational pull to this industry, and it’s been a great learning experience. I’m thankful for a great staff (eight employees).

How did you win bids for the bridge project?

I bought into County Fabricators in December 2013 knowing about the Tappan Zee project and what was going on with the Bayonne Bridge and Goethals Bridge (both in Staten Island) and other infrastructure projects in the area when I made my decision. I saw a really great opportunity, and I seized it.

It took persistence with help from my uncle’s construction connections. Our first bridge project was in late 2013, and once I proved to others the quality of the work we’re capable of doing, and the relationship grew from there.

About 65 percent of our work is TZC-related, and we have completed roughly 100 purchase orders for the project. We bid on everything we do and spend a lot of time estimating projects.

I Lift NY w/blue platform made by County Fabricators, LLC

I Lift NY w/blue platform made by County Fabricators, LLC

What types of jobs has your company performed on the project?

County Fabricators made the blue access platform — where iron workers will do all their rigging and to make the connections once the girders are in place — that hangs from the super crane’s boom.

We fabricated the electrical conduit supports for the approach spans, the first set of which has already been installed on the girders in the TZC yard in Coeymans, NY.

We are strictly a vendor so we get purchase orders for temporary work (things they are using to help them build the bridge) and permanent work (the conduit supports that will be part of the bridge forever).

Did you intend to get a masters degree in science?

I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with life after college and was always gong to some kind of graduate education. I did toy for a long time with getting my PhD and got my degree in comprehensive sciences as my major in college because I couldn’t choose one discipline and wanted to take many classes, gravitating toward math. I use that a lot here. It’s a big part of what we do.

“Kristina is a math wizard and can apply the book knowledge to actual applications,” Philip Benza said. “She knows how to read complex engineering drawings, understands AutoCAD and can do AutoCAD drawings, etc.

Who were your influences?

My dad was self-made, my uncle is self-made. I grew up around that and admire people who took something small and turned it into something big. I loved hearing stories, even now, stories of people like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie who came from humble beginnings and persevered even if they heard “no” a hundred times, people who are trailblazers.

Her father and uncle, Robert and Philip Benza, started County Fabricators, a 7,000-square-foot facility on Marble Avenue. They also owned and operated Arben Group LLC, a civil infrastructure contracting company in Pleasantville.

You might be a trailblazer for young women in school studying STEM.

I hope so. I have two younger sisters and heard “you need to set the example,” and do a lot of things with that subconsciously in mind: some day somebody might look up to me or want to emulate me.

I think it’s very important to continue to push for more women in STEM, and I am happy to be one of them. TZC is a great customer to work for and work with and employs lots of female engineers.

I went to the American Institute of Steel Construction conference in Nashville (March 2015) and saw women getting involved, strong women, empowered women, who have really important jobs and a lot of responsibility. That to me is exciting.

What would you tell someone in school aspiring to a specific field or career?

I would say go for it. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. Don’t be afraid of failing because you’re going to fail. You fall down nine times, you stand up 10 (times).

The biggest and most important lesson my parents instilled in me is if you commit to something, even if you realize halfway through you don’t like it, then you have to see through your commitment. I think it pertains to everything.

What lasting impression would you like people to have of your work?

We pride ourselves in the quality of our work and the service we give our customers. We establish a relationship with them, understand why we’re building what we’re building, what it will be used for, and ask if we can tweak the design so it satisfies the customer’s needs better. I don’t want anything to leave here that I’m not proud to have my name on.

I hope that 100 years from now when people are still driving over the bridge — I think about the fact that people will be driving over my work in theory long after I’m gone — and that my kids and family will say, “Wow!”

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times June 25, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Single-Lane Closures Start Tonight thru Weekend

Driver alert:

In about an hour (9 p.m.) one northbound lane from the bridge to Exit 11 (Nyack – South Nyack – US Route 9W) will close until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. More single-lane closures happen tomorrow night from 9 p.m. to Sunday at 7 a.m., and from Monday (June 29) at 8 p.m. to Tuesday (June 30) at 3 a.m.

Very cool view from the express bus window/Frank LoBuono

Very cool view from the express bus window/Frank LoBuono

Three lanes are open during these times (so folks who want to check out the steel girders can do so). Kidding aside, there was no traffic midday today, and the ride to Rockland was a breeze. Good view of the construction and super crane past the main span before the highway grade begins.

The bridge builder is installing foundations for temporary toll gantry until a new toll plaza is built in Tarrytown. In April part of the former police barracks was demolished to make way for a staging area.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Students Learn Lessons from New Tappan Zee

I remember when the five-year plan was unveiled at a Tarrytown school board meeting October 2013. One of the art teachers included an intergenerational component in her class whereby senior citizens met with students to draw their impressions of the bridge.

sunriseMiddle school students fascinated by the river activity outside their windows are in for a pleasant surprise — the New NY Bridge is coming to their classrooms.

Three weeks into his new role as superintendent of the Tarrytown UFSD (July 1, 2013), Dr. Christopher Clouet joined more than 20 educators on a Thruway Authority tugboat to learn about the project and upcoming construction activities.

Teachers, local district consultants, and officials from the Hudson River Museum met with Public Outreach Administrators Andrew O’Rourke, Assistant Project Manager Daniel Marcy, and Chris Stokes of Stokes Creative Group, part of Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC, this summer to find ways to bring the project to local schools.

Oyster relocation, environmental stewardship/NNYB

Oyster relocation, environmental stewardship/NNYB

These extensive discussions resulted in a five-year New NY Bridge Educational
Outreach Program, presented for the first time last month to the Board of Education. “The first year’s theme is Discovery and Environmental Stewardship,” special project advisor Brian Conybeare told board members.

Using the real-time monitors, he explained, and the recent oyster-harvesting program and three-month dredging period, “students can study ecology, environmental monitoring, geotech investigations, safety and equipment.”

Subsequent themes for the five-year learning plan developed by TZC and the Thruway Authority are:

• Year 2: A Solid Foundation (2014-2015)
• Year 3: Many Working Together (2015-2016)
• Year 4: Bridge Rising (2016-2017)
• Year 5: Bridging the Future—Class of 2018! (2017-2018)

The summer meetings gave teachers from Westchester time to meet their Rockland counterparts and formulate ways to share educational units that will allow their classes to parallel problem-solve, then compare and contrast solutions via Smart Board.

Helena Tam discusses her engineering career & path/NNYB

Helena Tam discusses her engineering career & path/NNYB

“The kids today asked questions and were intrigued by the project,” Conybeare said, after speaking to students at Cottage Lane Elementary School in Blauvelt. “We plan to bring experts into the classroom to discuss various aspects of it.”

For middle school art teacher Andrea Harrison, the bridge project is an inspiring theme for her intergenerational program — that connects students with neighborhood senior citizens — as a metaphor to ‘bridge the gap’ between generations, and to join different communities.

Working in small groups, and in pairs, Harrison’s eighth-grade students will brainstorm and look at themes that connect in the same manner, “for every definition of what is a bridge,” she said. “I saw it (the bridge project) as a springboard for new ideas, since it’s not only a physical structure.”

Math students can study census data to see growth of commerce, industry, population, peak travel times, or use data from the FEIS or the monitors installed earlier this year.

High school seniors interested in science, or geology, or even graphics, can explore career fields through the school’s Individualized Senior Experience program.

“It’s a way to keep students moving ahead and engaged,” explained High School Guidance Counselor Michael Kelly. “The goal is for students to work on real-time challenges with a mentor,” while at the same time exploring career paths.

Since they’re in school most of the day, Kelly said, the program offers flexible hours, depending upon their interests. “One former student was interested in animals, and she spent time with a veterinarian, whose office was open Saturdays,” he said.

Last month, the first of several EarthCam® construction cameras was installed, and is accessible at the New NY Bridge under Construction Cameras. It offers panoramic and marina views of the bridge, updated every 15 minutes, current project information and an interactive archive calendar.

Busy river/EarthCam® construction camera in Tarrytown

Busy river/EarthCam® construction camera in Tarrytown

“Our vision is to take the students along with us, as Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) builds this significant project,” Stokes said. “We are excited to have the opportunity to involve the local students in the project.”

Eighth-graders looking at river from their windows now “will be able to look at the bridge when it opens in the fall of 2018, and know they were educationally part of the process,” Harrison said.

TZC’s Public Involvement Plan (outreach) includes institutes of higher education, like Manhattan College in Riverdale, and programs like the Hudson River Museum’s Arts in the afternoon program.

“There was lots of enthusiasm from those who attended his (Conybeare’s) October 9 presentation,” Museum Director of Education Jennifer Patton, EdD said. It augmented the museum’s current exhibit, Modernism and the Transformation of New York’s Rivers 1900-1940, which opened in October and runs through mid-January 2014.

On October 30, project officials held the first college forum with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Cornell University, and the University of Buffalo.

My article originally appeared in The Hudson Independent October 31, 2013.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes

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