In 1993, W&W Glass LLC joined with the American distributor for the U.K.-based Pilkington glass manufacturing firm’s patented planar system, working exclusively in North America on highly engineered structural glass systems that allow installation without frames or metal mullions. The Nanuet, N.Y.-based contractor distributed the system as a contract glazing add-on for nearly three decades but was forced to change course in 2021 when the iconic British glassworks made a swift corporate decision to shutter operations worldwide due to deteriorating market demand. The closure was “a bitter pill to swallow,” says Jeff Haber, one of four W&W Glass managing partners.
But the bad news did not deter Haber and W&W’s other managing partners—his brothers Mike, Howard and Scott. Jeff and Howard quickly lined up meetings with four high-end glass factories. Within three months, they identified manufacturing alternatives with Interpane Glas Industrie AG in Germany and Spain-based Tvitec, among others. The Pilkington shutdown “led to the birth of our new Glass Engineered Solutions group,” Jeff Haber says, which he adds now enables the firm to execute turnkey delivery of larger and more flexible structural glazed systems. As a result, W&W Glass has been able to secure its foothold as one of the largest glass installers in the New York City region and beyond. It ranks No. 3 on the 2023 ENR New York Top Specialty Contractors list with $185 million in regional revenue for the previous year. The firm had ranked second on the 2022 list with $220 million in 2021 regional revenue. The 16% drop was triggered by the loss of its Pilkington partnership and by a slowdown in commercial construction.
Those events became catalysts for W&W Glass to reinvent the business, Haber says—broadening into institutional and other non-commercial work (see box, next page) and becoming a more full-service glazing contractor both in its New York City home market and elsewhere in the U.S. through partnerships.
Current W&W Glass projects include:
W&W Glass has a $90-million contract for this 12-story project that is transforming the historic St. Johns Terminal in lower Manhattan into a state-of-the-art triple-glazed and dual skin facade structure.
Richard Gilder Center - American Museum of Natural History
The $16-million contract for the museum center expansion included work on a long-span custom steel atrium curtain wall and vestibule, large skylights and curved glass walls with bird-safe and energy-efficient glazing.
Delta Airlines Terminal - LaGuardia Airport
W&W Glass is completing work on this multiple-year, $140-million curtain wall contract for about 400,000 sq ft of the terminal—including the headhouse, concourses and connectors.
W&W Glass has its roots in New York City, starting in the mid-1940s when William Haber, grandfather of the current managing partners, co-founded Haber and Henry Glass and Metal Inc., a small storefront business in the Bronx. William Haber’s son, Jerome, a Rensselaear Polytechnic Institute engineering graduate took it over in 1963, with a younger brother later joining.
After that firm was acquired in the early 1970s, the Habers founded W&W Glass in 1978—with employees working in a 500-sq-ft airplane hangar on the grounds of what today is its headquarters in Nanuet.
“We treat our employees like family as much as possible within the confines of still running a business.”
—Jeff Haber, Managing Partner, W&W Glass
Over the last four decades, W&W Glass has performed project work that includes installation of unitized curtain walls on high-rise structures and logistics and equipment rigging management—including complex scaffolding, monorail systems and unique lifting tools such as jumbo suction cups—in New York City and in nearly 50 states, according to Jeff Haber. The contractor's recent marquee projects include the $110-million reclad and expansion of the Two Penn Plaza office high-rise near Penn Station that is set for completion by year-end. The firm also finished earlier this year the $16-million glass lobby facade installation at Two Manhattan West, a 935-ft skyscraper near Penn Station, and last year completed a $75-million curtain wall project for the Columbia University Business School expansion. Its portfolio also includes a $36-million project in 2021 for the new Jacob Javits Convention Center and the $48-million complete podium package at the One Vanderbilt commercial tower in 2020. W&W Glass was also part of a large team that worked around the clock following the 9/11 attack in 2001 to install some 200,000 sq ft of glass in less than nine months as part of the repair to the damaged World Financial Center in lower Manhattan.
The Haber brothers, who all started in the family business as teenagers working summers, still comprise the W&W Glass board of directors. Mike and Scott handle the firm’s New York City-based glazing group, which generates two-thirds of revenue, while Jeff and Howard manage the highly engineered specialty glazing group. The family partners say the firm has focused on improving customer service, upgrading product and material selection quality and staying committed to jobsite safety. Despite the trend toward building larger more complex structural glass systems, W&W has had no open OSHA violations in the past five years, according to OSHA records. The firm’s Lost Time Injury Rate and Total Recorded Incident Rate averaged 2.0 in the past five years, according to the firm’s data.
The W&W Glass team pictured was working the night shift to install new glass units into curtain wall openings for the Delta Airlines Terminal C project at La Guardia Airport in New York City.
Photo courtesy of W&W Glass
Operating as a union contractor and employee-owned company, with a total staff of nearly 200, W&W Glass “treats our employees like family as much as possible within the confines of still running a business,” Jeff Haber says.
In his first year after joining W&W Glass, project manager Ryan Malynn learned how to assemble the firm’s glazing system while working on the Columbia business school project, to make sure it was fully waterproofed and weatherproofed. In the unique architectural structure, which included unitized and stick-built curtain wall with curved glass units, he says he had to address unusual end and corner conditions while still fully sealing the outside. On other projects, Malynn also has had to learn how to handle glass with 30-ft to 40-ft-high fins weighing 3,000 to 4,000 lb each, in tight working spaces in Manhattan and elsewhere.
W&W Glass has an informal training program it aims to formalize in preparation for deployment over the next four years, Jeff Haber says. Firm employees are testing the program through internal internships in various company operations. “We always start with fieldwork because we feel it’s the most important to know,” he says. Interns will be assistant project managers on a wide range of projects—including storefronts, curtain walls, windows, entrances and ornamental metal. “They will spend 70% of their time at a site office and the balance at headquarters,” Haber says.
W&W Glass performance has boosted its construction sector relationships. Frank Gramarossa, a Turner Construction vice president and project executive who worked with it on the Google headquarters, terms the firm “customer-oriented and responsive. They had constant communication with us, making it easy to plan, schedule, track and adjust our schedule and set up an extremely efficient and well-planned project.”
The W&W Glass organization also is active in the community—with several of its managing partners serving on boards of nonprofit and charitable groups and as major donors to causes the family is passionate about, including Fresh Youth Initiative, the American Cancer Society and The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Mike Haber, W&W Glass managing partner, in front of a unitized curtain wall mock-up for Good Samaritan University Hospital Medical Center's patient care pavilion expansion in West Islip, Long Island.
Photo courtesy of W&W Glass
Since the pandemic, W&W Glass’s specialty glazing dominance in commercial installations in cities such as Boston, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Los Angeles is shifting to new locations in Texas and Florida and to more varied project types such as health care and institutional work. While the firm has no immediate acquisition plans, “You never know,” Jeff Haber says.
For larger contract glazing projects of $10 million or more, competition in New York City is usually limited to a small group of national or international contract leasing firms, Mike Haber says. But those below that level attract more competitors. With Europe’s market slowing, more firms based there seek U.S. work. “Competition is good,” he notes. “It keeps us on our toes.”
“Competition is good. it keeps us on our toes."
—Mike Haber, Managing Partner, W&W Glass
W&W Glass transferred company ownership to its employee stock ownership plan in late 2019 as a way to reward employees while receiving a tax benefit, Jeff Haber says. Despite losing two years of “teambuilding” due to the pandemic, rising share prices and growing employee engagement is positive for current and future staff recruitment and retention, he contends.
For the managing partners, the corporate structure has also provided “an opportunity for a long-term exit strategy that can be implemented over many years without changing the business culture,” Jeff Haber says. Currently, the firm has the fourth generation of Habers at the firm, with Jeff’s three sons working full time and two of Mike’s set to be employed by next year. “That’s exciting,” he says. “We wanted to be able to balance giving them opportunities while giving ourselves flexibility.”