The New York region’s 2021 group of Top Young Professionals is widely varying. What makes them cohesive is a commitment to better their communities through their professional work and volunteerism. Entries for 53 impressive contestants from around New Jersey and New York were submitted.
Special thanks goes to the following judges who diligently reviewed all entries and selected the final 20 winners: Charlie Copeland, president and CEO of Goldman Copeland and the 2020 recipient of ENR New York’s Legacy Award; Heather Groff, director of interior architecture and design at Ware Malcomb and a member of ENR New York’s 2019 Top Young Professionals cohort; and Omotoye Omoniyi, lead superintendent at Gilbane Building Co. and a 2020 recipient of ENR’s national 20 Under 40 recognition.
Congratulations also to the region’s Top Young Pros who also were chosen to be part of the 20 Under 40 cohort for 2021: Martin Downs, president, J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc.; Atul Paralkar, director of controls, Holt Construction Corp.; and Victoria Scala, president, Lowy and Donnath Inc. Later this year, a feature in ENR’s national edition will showcase the 20 Under 40 winners and their perspectives on construction industry issues.
ENR will launch the first Top Young Professionals virtual conference, running Feb. 24-26 with industry expert keynote speakers, panel discussions and workshops. You can find more information at https://www.enr.com/top-young-professionals-conference.
Read on to learn more about our Top Young Pros.
36, Senior Discipline Engineer
A leader in tacking community water treatment challenges
H2M architects + engineers
To help New York communities find cost-effective approaches to safeguard their drinking water supplies from contaminants, Auriemmo is at the forefront of an initiative that utilizes advanced oxidation process (AOP) technology for wellhead treatment systems. Combining ultraviolet disinfection technology with prefabricated building strategies, the approach offers a highly efficient and rapidly deployable strategy for meeting stricter state treatment standards. The Cornell University graduate also serves as QA/QC director for H2M’s public water supply treatment system projects, applying her expertise and attention to detail to ensure all designs meet exacting standards for consistency, specifications, constructibility and performance. Auriemmo’s managerial skills and collegial approach have proven invaluable to the development of a new generation of project managers who are using her guidance and leadership as the foundation for their own successful careers.
An eye for innovation and inspiration
Integrity, experience and continual learning have been Baptiste’s guiding principles during her 16-year career as site and civil engineer, project manager and now entrepreneur. She has designed subdivisions, condominiums and waterfront projects with a close attention to detail that allowed her to find potentially overlooked opportunities for innovation. During the pandemic, Baptiste’s approach has helped keep employees engaged and connected in a virtual setting with such ideas as a birdhouse design challenge that brought out each employee’s creativity and preserved a sense of community. Baptiste also works to encourage women of all ages to consider engineering careers by engaging with high school students as part of the ACE Mentor Program and by serving on the New York chapter and national board of Professional Women in Construction (PWC). She recently participated in PWC’s Day of Discovery video, created to inspire high school students to join the next generation of construction professionals.
Adapting technical and business skills to unprecedented challenges
McLaren Engineering Group
Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
Billig’s appointment as president of McLaren Engineering Group in January 2019 came as little surprise to colleagues who know him as a trusted leader with the ability to quickly gauge the needs of clients and develop custom-tailored solutions. He has participated in complex, high-profile efforts such as the Rockefeller University River Building, the Pulaski Skyway Bridge and multiple energy and health care projects. Challenged with making unprecedented and often difficult business decisions during the coronavirus pandemic, Billig applied his analytical abilities to balance long-term business needs with his employees’ welfare. His initiatives included reevaluating divisional projections, cross-training staff and taking unconventional approaches in evaluating new opportunities. In addition to his involvement in industry organizations, Billig is a Bezos Family Foundation Mentor, providing youth of all backgrounds with the support and guidance needed to graduate from high school and succeed in college.
39, Transmission & Distribution Project Manager
Adapting remote collaboration tools to keep teams and groups connected
Burns & McDonnell
East Hanover, N.J.
Drawing on her extensive background in the electric utility industry, Butler leads a team responsible for managing nearly $2 billion worth of electrical infrastructure upgrades in the Northeast as well as a $1.2-billion infrastructure upgrade involving 13 substations and 50 miles of transmission line improvements spanning multiple New Jersey counties. Amid the many personal and professional challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Butler oversaw her team’s successful transition to a work-from-home model while also maintaining her company’s high standards of responsiveness and client service. Butler’s leadership was also instrumental in helping professional and charitable organizations transition to virtual platforms. She helped orchestrate an online panel discussion on offshore wind opportunities and ensured that high school students in the Dorson Community Foundation’s scholars program could continue their education and finish the year strong, complete with a virtual closing ceremony honoring their achievements.
Robert M. D’Onofrio
38, Vice President
Helping projects avoid schedule and productivity pitfalls
Capital Project Management Inc.
New York City
An expert in analyzing factors that contribute to schedule delays and lost productivity, D’Onofrio has consulted on some of the largest transportation infrastructure projects in North America, from New York City’s Second Avenue Subway extension to the Los Angeles Metro system expansion. Over the past 10 years, D’Onofrio has authored or co-authored more than 30 articles and presented more than 100 lectures on construction management, scheduling and claims. He is the co-author of “Construction Schedule Delays,” a 1,100-page treatise widely regarded as an authoritative source on the subject. Along with being an invaluable resource for industry professionals, the publication is currently used as a course textbook at several universities. D’Onofrio is currently serving as president of ASCE’s Construction Institute, a leading organization for technical activities, conferences and development of internationally recognized standards in construction engineering.
Go-to manager now tasked with leading the company
J. Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc.
Eighteen years after joining Creamer as an intern, Downs now serves as president of the 1,200- employee specialty construction firm. Long known within the firm as the go-to manager for the most complex and challenging assignments, Downs continually strives to make the next job more successful than the one before. His first initiative as president was implementing a sweeping company reorganization to streamline operations and improve efficiency. Downs also applies his deep understanding of union work requirements and collective bargaining agreements to foster mutually supportive labor relations, including upholding Creamer’s commitment to protecting employees and the public via certification activities at the company’s training and development center. The Stevens Institute of Technology graduate regularly returns to his alma mater to recruit top engineers and participates in a variety of charitable organizations and athletic fundraising events around the region.
36, Senior Project Manager
Using diverse experiences to craft out-of-the-box solutions
New York City
From the time he first joined the construction industry, Dragona has sought to develop not only his own career, but those of the people around him. His leadership in an AECOM Tishman development program resulted in numerous promotions among his 20-person team, solidifying the company’s managerial resources and expertise for the future. Dragona also embraces the role of mentor, helping colleagues, veterans and students shape and grow their own careers. Having gained valuable experience in a variety of complex mechanical infrastructure projects, Dragona is now applying those lessons learned as a manager for AECOM Tishman’s multidisciplinary services to Verizon. His work with that client includes Hurricane Sandy emergency relief and restoration efforts, installing fire suppression systems at 22 New York City locations and overseeing a program to integrate geothermal energy systems at 11 locations across the Northeast.
Inspiring emerging leaders via professional development
Horizon Engineering Associates
New York City
From the outset of his career, Forino has taken a “learn by doing” approach to professional development, using every opportunity to provide project support opportunities for various projects. When a need arose for assistance with LEED and sustainability initiatives, Forino immersed himself in learning industry best practices so that his firm could quickly establish a viable service line for the region. He also enrolled in an executive MBA program to gain a more comprehensive understanding of engineering’s business side. Forino’s industry service includes serving as a board member and current president of the nonprofit Building Commissioning Association. His priorities for 2020 included engaging the future generation of commissioning providers, identifying upcoming leaders and focusing on training and content to sustain their involvement. Recent efforts include the launch of a leadership recognition program and the debut of a podcast for team members.
38, Project Executive
Lifelong learner keeps projects and his industry on a sound foundation
A childhood fascination with long-span bridges and the innovation behind them has led Grillo to make many of his own contributions to geotechnical engineering and specialty construction. His notable projects include design of a pit and pier underpinning system, creation of a new cellar for New York City Hall and developing a ground improvement strategy for The New Valley Hospital in Paramus, N.J. Grillo is also a natural leader, mentor and lifelong learner who seeks out training opportunities to build his own skill set and share insights on new technologies and practices with his colleagues. In addition to his active involvement with the American Society of Civil Engineers and other industry groups, Grillo is a volunteer firefighter and delegate to the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association. He regularly visits area schools to lead presentations on fire safety and prevention.
Multitasking entrepreneur builds a better future
Infinite Consulting Corp.
Hirani’s first job as a draftsman imbued him with a passion for designing and building a better future. He has grown Infinite Consulting from a company with no employees or revenue to one of the nation’s leading construction management firms. A serial entrepreneur, Hirani has also helped launch a real estate fund, an entrepreneurship networking group and a turnkey retail solutions start-up. Hirani continually augments his skills via a variety of industry certifications and hopes to soon secure his professional engineer license. Amid all his business responsibilities, Hirani finds time for an equally diverse range of philanthropic and educational activities. He recently endowed a Society of American Military Engineers scholarship for engineering students at his alma mater, Columbia University. Hirani is also a mentor for the American Society of Civil Engineers and is a volunteer for New York City’s Habitat for Humanity, NY Cares and other groups.
37, Executive Vice President – New York Metro Region
A people-first leader forges connections among team members
Shawmut Design and Construction
New York City
Throughout his career, Margolius has focused on creating a true personal connection among all team members. Those qualities proved valuable in helping guide Shawmut’s 415-employee New York area division through the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic. With news consumption at an all-time high, Margolius understood the critical importance of clear, transparent and consistent communication with employees and clients. In addition to regularly collaborating with other executives on strategies for keeping Shawmut’s people safe, he uses a biweekly internal newsletter and small group video calls to assess the team’s pulse and celebrate their hard work. As construction in New York City has resumed, Margolius ensured that each client felt confident in restarting projects by overseeing the thorough implementation of enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols so that teams were fully prepared to deploy on Day 1.
37, Senior Associate/Vice President
Sharing a decades-long passion for engineering and learning
New York City
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Nilson set his sights at the age of 10 on becoming a civil engineer. He has managed numerous high-profile New York City projects, including One Vanderbilt, a 1,401-ft-tall commercial tower covering a city block, as well as multiple new towers in the Hudson Yards area. A lifelong learner with graduate degrees in civil engineering and business administration, Nilson has sought to convey his fascination with engineering to others. Having led Langan’s 2019 summer civil engineering intern program, Nilson is helping to develop a project management training curriculum as well as discipline- and experience-specific education tracks. He hosted a LEED exam prep class for Langan employees, helping about 50 colleagues pass the test on their first try. Nilson has also delivered guest lectures at his alma mater, Lafayette College, and at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
39, Director of Controls
Enhancing design and construction quality, internally and industrywide
Holt Construction Co.
Pearl River, N.Y.
Throughout his career, Paralkar has helped successfully deliver and support more than $40 billion in projects in the U.S. and overseas. He has worked on major development programs at New York City’s airports, Exxon Mobil’s non-road diesel project and the Brain and Cognitive Science Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Paralkar has also applied his skills to Holt Construction’s change management initiatives, which integrate and connect diverse stakeholder interests to address project operations and quality. The professional community has likewise benefited from Paralkar’s insights and experience. In addition to mentoring countless young people at the outset of their own career journeys, he co-established an architectural excellence award to honor Minal Panchal, a college classmate who was one of 32 victims of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.
35, Senior Associate
Helping to create better buildings worldwide
New York City
Patrizi applies his deep knowledge of building performance, energy and thermal modeling to ensure his firm’s new construction and renovation projects are both distinctive in appearance and compliant with New York City’s Energy Conservation Code. His recent work includes Greenpoint Landing, a residential property with affordable housing options, and the expansion of Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., one of the oldest museums in the country. Demand for his specialized expertise has enabled Patrizi to add a host of international projects to his portfolio, including U.S. embassies in Honduras, Thailand and his native Italy. Closer to home, Patrizi is actively involved with Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing students’ economic and social mobility by improving public education. He is also a key organizer for the annual Iron Designer Challenge at New York’s School of Design and Construction, in which students develop their own building projects.
Forging collaborative connections and successful teams
P. Max Engineering
Plazola is a role model for the consulting engineer of the future. As an entrepreneur and professional engineer whose background includes a variety of building types, he has built his firm around a culture of collaboration and idea-sharing. By coaching his staff to excel in communication and coordination internally, Plazola empowers his employees to turn project teams into true partnerships. Enjoying a remarkable annual growth rate of 250% in 2019, P. Max Engineering marked another milestone this year with its first contract as project prime engineer with the state of New York. In addition to contributing to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s efforts to forge better connections among regional industries and businesses, Plazola provides pro bono and reduced-fee engineering services to underserved communities and markets, including residential owners and landlords.
Sharing engineering insights with professionals and newcomers
Lowy and Donnath Inc.
Long Island City, N.Y.
Engineering has enabled Scala to combine her passions for construction and learning. After beginning her career with Lowy and Donnath as a project engineer, she earned a doctorate in engineering by researching building performance modeling and measurement with a keen interest in energy efficiency. While Scala’s project management experience spans health care, higher education, financial institutions and industrial facilities, it was the coronavirus outbreak that put her professional and leadership skills to the test. She and her team converted 400 new hospital beds at Mount Sinai Beth Israel for COVID-19 patients during the height of the pandemic. Scala is also committed to encouraging the next generation of engineers. She is a regular speaker at Manhattan College’s engineering awareness camp and a proud supporter of NEW, which trains and assists women to successfully enter the building trades and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Urban design advocate brings global perspective to neighborhood needs
New York City
Schneider’s holistic approach to sustainable and resiliency-focused projects was shaped in part by two summers in Nairobi, Kenya, serving as a consultant for public space design in informal settlements. She also spent five years working in international sustainable infrastructure planning, including serving as a lead engineer on the Kabul, Afghanistan, Urban Design Framework Infrastructure Plan, developing municipal-scale sustainable infrastructure strategies for that city’s post-conflict future. Schneider is currently working on a grant to develop a framework for resilient river corridors through Stantec’s creativity and innovation program, a company funding stream dedicated to encouraging creativity and innovation in design. Schneider’s advocacy of urban design is also evidenced by her participation in Stantec’s pro bono design services to the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, creating “streets as open space” designs to foster community interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
James M. Vignola
39, Director of Technical Design/Structural Team Leader
Advancing structural design quality
RAND Engineering & Architecture DPC
New York City
Vignola oversees RAND’s technical design and structural engineering teams, a dual role aimed at providing the highest level of quality and technical excellence for new construction and rehabilitation projects. His recent work includes 517 West 29 St., a 57,000-sq-ft flat-plate concrete residential condominium building with 60 units. Vignola has held a variety of leadership roles with the Structural Engineers Association of New York, including hosting a delegation of civil engineers from Tianjin, China, for an open exchange of ideas and a discussion of industry issues and educational opportunities. As the parent of a congenital amputee, Vignola is actively involved with Camp No Limits, a nonprofit that provides a traditional summer camp experience for children with limb loss and limb differences.
Daniel H. Warren
36, Senior Project Manager
An expert in tackling complex environmental remediation
New York City
Five years out of college, Warren was already managing environmental remediation projects notable for both their size and complexity. His work included coordinating comprehensive cleanups around Long Island Rail Road commuter railyard operations, which involved a challenging diesel fuel spill that impacted a half-million cu yd of soil. Warren’s skills as an engineer and manager have led to other challenging remediation assignments. As technical lead and project manager for cleanup of the Mattiace Petrochemical Superfund site, he designed and oversaw construction of a 500-ft-long groundwater contamination barrier constructed of interlocking plastic sheet piles as well as an in-situ thermal remediation system. Warren is always on alert for opportunities to help others in need, regardless of location. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he traveled on his own initiative to Port-au-Prince to assist with food distribution and help establish a base for disaster relief operations.
31, NYC Office Rail Department Operations Lead
Applying new approaches to improve mobility and industry education
New York City
In less than a decade, Wasserman has led a host of significant and technically challenging mass transit infrastructure projects throughout the New York metropolitan region. He currently provides day-to-day management of design services for the $1.5-billion second phase of MTA Long Island Rail Road’s Jamaica Capacity Improvements. Wasserman has applied innovative approaches to smoothly synchronize 10 main stages and 30 substages while also saving time and reducing construction costs. Wasserman strives to give back to the engineering community through teaching. Along with helping coordinate HNTB’s transportation intern program, he regularly teaches fundamentals of engineering and PE review courses online, using short videos to demonstrate step-by-step problem-solving techniques. Thanks to his efforts, hundreds of young civil engineers and students have passed certification exams.