In high-end iron work, a balance of aesthetics and engineering is crucial in designing historic landmarks.
At the helm of a family company with Hudson County roots, Weehawken native Guy D. Iacono is the third generation to head his family’s ironworks business.
He’s devoted his life to creating internationally-recognized works.
His vision was inspired by his predecessors. Iacono’s grandfather founded Arrow Iron Works in 1928. Though the company has gone through major setbacks, dissolutions, and name changes, the business is celebrating its 91st year, now under the name Iacono Iron.
The company, which boasts several landmark construction projects throughout the country, has been led by three generations of Iaconos: Guy Dello Iacono, followed by former Weehawken Mayor Stanley D. Iacono, and now Guy D. Iacono.
The company portfolio includes prominent features at PNC Bank Arts Center; The High Line in New York City; the Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York City (now known as the Roxy); support frames and exhibits at Liberty Science Center; a freestanding spiral staircase at Goldman Sachs’ corporate headquarters in Manhattan; the stairway at the 2nd Avenue Subway Station in New York City; the revitalized Liberty State Park Train Terminal in Jersey City; architectural features at Rutgers University in New Brunswick; a stairway in New Brunswick’s Hyatt hotel; a solar canopy at Ramapo University; and a stairway on the palisades in Weehawken.
Iron in his DNA
For the younger Iacono, taking the reins of the business was a natural calling.
“I don’t call this work at all,” Iacono said. “I started when I was 12 years old, doing summer work, learning the basics of estimating, painting the shop, a lot of low-risk work.”
Iacono graduated from Weehawken High School in 1975, and did some acting after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. With the township of Weehawken, he staged about 20 productions as director, and directed the town’s cultural affairs department for 10 years. After several years in theater,in 1990, Iacono again picked up the ironworks baton. Shortly after he took control, he shut down the business due to contractual issues, before reemerging under the name USA Iron.
Iacono said that the company, under the leadership of his father, Stanley, was a driving force behind the residential and commercial development of Weehawken’s waterfront. But it wasn’t a walk in the park.
In 1983, the New York Times reported that Weehawken’s then-mayor Wally Lindsley was convicted and imprisoned for attempting to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers who planned to build a chicken processing plant on the Hudson River waterfront.
Stanley Iacono took over as mayor in the interim. Richard Turner, Weehawken’s current mayor, served as a state-appointed township manager during Stanley’s tenure. According to Iacono, the Lindsley scandal was a catalyst for the Port Imperial development today.
“Weehawken went from a chicken farm to a place where we brought in Arthur Imperatore [NY Waterway founder], and Hartz Mountain, to give Weehawken the ultimate waterfront,” Iacono said. “My dad had the vision and the organization to bring in these developers, and they’ve done right by the town.”
The fall and rise
The pivotal moment of the younger Iacono’s career was recovering from superstorm Sandy, in October 2012. At that point, the company was in Kearny next to the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
“I lost everything I had ever owned,” Iacono said. “This is a story about perseverance, and a story about never rolling over. Coming back from that showed what we were made of. I didn’t have any flood insurance, so we lost it all. We had a surge of water that was seven feet high.We had to get through it without any state or FEMA funds. I look at Hurricane Sandy, where I was completely wiped out, as a gift. It taught me a few things.”
Under the name Iacono Iron, Iacono focused on competitive, high-end construction in addition to the company’s bread-and-butter business, giving it a global reach. Now, Iacono Iron bids on work in Miami, Boston, and Los Angeles, as well as international projects.
Paying it forward
Iacono’s mission statement is knowing, with confidence, that he’s doing the right thing and is doing right by all parties involved.
What started as a blueprint doodled on a napkin became a prototype called “the erector set,” which trains thousands entering the construction industry through Local 508 in Springfield, which is in Union County.
With a life-size structure, trainees can hammer out various structural beam connections, manage a crane, and learn other construction fundamentals.
“The use of it began in 2000,” Iacono said. “I want to be an educator and share what I know to teach more people. This is likely the first of its kind in the United States. It’s a hands-on OSHA training.”
Today, Iacono is working with a documentary crew to produce a feature film chronicling 91 years of history, with the help of architects and industry experts. Said Iacono, “Producers are working on the sizzle reel right now, which will get sent to a production company somewhere in Los Angeles.”
For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com, or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.