Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Until it was purchased by Brack Capital Real Estate in December 2002, the building that stands at 90 West Street in New York City was a cold reminder of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Designed by famous architect Cass Gilbert at the turn of the century, the 23-story building was pierced by hurling debris and damaged from fires that lasted for days after the attack. Since the building is on the southern end of the World Trade Center site, it sustained major damage from concrete and steel that fell off the South Tower.

As president of Façade Maintenance and Design, Richard Lefever ’82 led the building’s exterior restoration. His firm was chosen based on its experience in restoring The Woolworth Building, another New York City skyscraper and Gilbert’s 1913 masterpiece.

“Our involvement with this project has been a surreal experience,” says Lefever. “It is by far the most complex project we have ever been associated with, and has at times overwhelmed everyone involved. The project could in fact be looked upon as four very large projects: replacement of the copper mansard roof, restoration of the intricate terra cotta walls, restoration of the granite base, and replacement of the windows. Any one of those projects would be a large undertaking, but all of them together on an expedited schedule is a strain. It has also been a spiritual experience, repairing the damage caused by the horrific attack.”

The nearly 100-year-old building recently reopened with over 400 apartments. It has been featured in New York Times articles and is the subject of a documentary film by Arik Kaplun. Lefever is scheduled to discuss the project later this month at the annual meeting of the Association for Preservation Technology Northeast Chapter.

At Façade Maintenance and Design, Lefever takes on responsibility for daily coordination of and production of all activities, including condition analysis, reports, construction documents, and construction administration. Under his guidance, the business has expanded from a New York-centered firm to a regional one.

“Every day I use ideas and experiences I gained at Lafayette — in particular, the respect for materials taught by Professor (Leon) McGeady,” says Lefever, a metallurgical engineering graduate. “I often repeat his quote, ‘The essence of a bachelor’s degree in engineering is that everything happens for a reason.’ I use that as a reality check when things get out of hand. I guess in the case of this project the quote applies for both technical and non-technical issues.”

A member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Association of Preservation Technology, and the Sealant Waterproofing and Restoration Institute, Lefever served as general manager of Façade Maintenance Design for 11 years before purchasing it from parent firms DeSimone Consulting Engineers PLLC and SBLM Architects PC and developing it as an independent organization. He has studied architecture at Columbia University and is a graduate of the RESTORE masonry restoration course.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles