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When Barbara Kavovit was called in to pitch her construction company as the right choice to execute plans for new offices at 99 Hudson Street in New York City, she knew what her angle would be.
“I told them that I would take a personal interest in this position, that I would make sure that the female trades were involved in the project and that I would appoint a woman as the project manager on a daily basis”, explains Kavovit, owner of Evergreen Construction.
There was a reason behind his vision: The second floor of this Tribeca apartment building owned by Olshan Properties was a former office for the Weinstein Company, the production company once run by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer who was sentenced for sexual assault. The company had a New York office in Tribeca as well.
When the Evergreen team – with a demolition crew 35 percent female, a high rate for the industry – arrived at the site, they found some lingering signs that this office belonged to a notable former resident. There was no casting couch, but framed posters for some of Weinstein’s more recent films under the Weinstein Company banner stood on the floors of the abandoned office – which Kavovit says she herself has. smashed with a hammer.
Kavovit – who, as a former star of the Real Housewives of New York, is familiar with the entertainment industry – brought in female-led contractors from Mikoma Electric and Alba Demolition, who executed a design led by Keri Mate from architectural firm Design Republic. The company completed work on the space last month.
“I had a permanent smile on my face as I watched each wall crumble. I took a hammer and started hitting the walls, ”says Kavovit. “I felt a sense of triumph, closure and rebuilding to improve it. It was a change for me that as a women-owned company we were hired to demolish Harvey Weinstein’s offices.
In particular, the construction industry is dominated by men; according to National Association of Women in Construction, women in 2018 accounted for 9.9% of the industry, including office jobs. “It’s not an easy industry to get into,” Kavovit says. “It’s a network of old boys.”
Kavovit’s experience in construction influenced how she thought about the significance of this particular project. “I have had a lot of Harveys in my life,” Kavovit says. “People use their power and influence to profit from it. When it comes to entertainment and construction, most men use the same tactics. ”
The new office is in line with pre-COVID-19 office trends, with open, naturally-lit common areas rather than a line of private rooms around the perimeter of the floor. For Kavovit, this drawing was symbolic, because she considered that many women who say they are harassed or assaulted by Weinstein say they were brought behind closed doors under the pretext of work meetings. Mate, one of the architects who worked on the space, adds that the old office was “not welcoming.”
The new space is “safer, more inclusive. If you stand on one side of the desk, you can see the other, ”Kavovit says. “The ghosts are gone.”
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