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Breaking Down Barriers in Demolition

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In the heart of New York City, amidst the ever-changing skyline and interminable construction activity, AMG Demolition distinguishes itself through expert demolition services and the visionary leadership of President and CEO, Joni Capobianco. Certified as both a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), AMG Demolition not only competes but dominates in a field traditionally commanded by men.

Founded in a time of monumental personal tragedy, AMG Demolition has evolved from a tentative venture into a formidable force in the industry. Very quickly after a move from Long Island to Florida, Capobianco faced the sudden loss of her husband, leaving her in an unfamiliar city with three children, no job, and no income. “I literally moved back to Long Island and into my mother’s basement with three kids and nothing but air mattresses for us to sleep on,” Capobianco recalls. She had originally planned to begin a dredging company in Florida and inspired by a friend’s suggestion that “if you can dredge underwater, you can do demolition on land,” she pivoted completely, founding AMG Demolition. Despite its humble beginnings with a first-year revenue of just $50,000, Capobianco’s tenacity was unyielding. “That first check, every check, was reinvested,” she says, highlighting a gritty commitment to growth.

Through perseverance and strategic partnerships, the company’s growth skyrocketed. Capobianco’s dedication to minority compliance and engagement with organizations like DASNY (Dormitory Authority of the State of New York) paved the path for monumental projects, including a million-dollar contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Year after year, AMG Demolition experienced exponential growth, reaching $25 million in annual revenue. The journey wasn’t without challenges; AMG navigated financial constraints and operational hurdles with pluck and determination. “It was a long process,” Capobianco reflects, “but every year, we invested a little bit more money and grew steadily.”

Significant projects and state and federal collaborations shaped AMG’s path, with each job acting as a steppingstone for the next larger opportunity. Capobianco’s philosophy of steady, calculated expansion ensured the company’s sustainability. “We didn’t jump at every opportunity; we grew as we could afford to, ensuring we could always deliver on our promises,” she explains.

Today, AMG Demolition specializes in a wide range of services crucial to urban redevelopment and infrastructure enhancement. The company’s core competencies include total demolition, where buildings are methodically dismantled, often involving heavy machinery and precise coordination. In interior demolition, AMG takes on intricate projects that require careful stripping of internal structures, from office buildings to historic renovations. A distinctive feature of its service lineup is “burning,” a specialized technique for cutting through metal structures, particularly useful in scenarios where traditional dismantling methods are inadequate. This service became particularly vital in post-disaster scenarios, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when rapid removal of damaged infrastructures was critical. AMG is one of the very few WBE/DBE-certified demolition companies in NYC.

AMG team in office meeting

The designations of WBE and DBE are not merely titles but are reflective of AMG’s role in facilitating diversity within the construction industry. These certifications enable AMG to meet specific regulatory requirements for minority and female business participation in government-funded projects, helping to level the playing field in a competitive market. They also underline the company’s commitment to expanding opportunities for underrepresented groups in construction and demolition, providing a platform for broader societal impacts through the scope of work.

Becoming a certified WBE and DBE wasn’t just a checkbox for Capobianco—it was a test of her determination. It was extremely difficult to become certified 17 years ago when AMG was founded, and it is even harder now. She remembers the intense scrutiny she faced during AMG’s initial certification, where she had to prove her ownership and leadership. “When you first get certified, they want to make sure that it’s not your husband’s company and you’re a storefront,” Capobianco says. “They want to know where your money came from. They want to know that you are the only one signing checks; that you are the only one hiring and firing.”

The process was no walk in the park. Capobianco recalls a particularly intense audit where she had to demonstrate her expertise on the spot. “They came in with a team of about 8 people and they slapped down a set of drawings of a bridge. They wanted to know how I would take the bridge down. I said I can’t take down a bridge, but I can demolish your toll booths. I can chop up your concrete. They scattered and went to my sites and asked my foreman who’s their boss. They wanted to make sure you are the boss here and you are really leading a company,” she recounts. This experience highlights her hands-on approach and the personal dedication she brings to AMG Demolition.

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry like demolition isn’t just about breaking barriers—it’s about shattering stereotypes and redefining norms. Capobianco knows this journey all too well. Reflecting on her 17-year career, she recalls the early days when she was often dismissed or overlooked. “Years ago, when I would go on to a job, I was a joke,” she says. “You’re a woman. What do you know about demolition?”

But times have changed, and so have perceptions. Capobianco has witnessed that shift, likening it to the evolution of societal norms. “Today, it no longer feels like a situation where I am a woman in a man’s business. It feels like a business where men and women can both be successful.” She envisions a future where gender is no longer a topic of discussion in the industry, saying, “This is due, in huge part, to agencies that enforce minority compliance. It has become the norm. By the time my grandkids are working, I hope this will not even be a conversation.”

Her advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs entering male-dominated fields is simple yet powerful: “Walk into the room like you own it… This is our industry, and men and women are equal.” Capobianco’s story is a testament to her unwavering belief that women belong in every corner of the workforce. It cannot be said that her success is based solely on forced compliance. This powerhouse has had to work harder to establish her value in the industry, every step along the way. She continues to lead her team to go beyond expectations, demolishing stereotypes, and paving the way for future female industry leaders.

AMG Demolition has been involved in several high-profile projects, showcasing its expertise and reliability in the industry. One notable project was the demolition of the JP Morgan Chase building, a 58-story skyscraper with a 13-story podium. This project was significant as it was the first skyscraper in New York City to voluntarily come down. The decision was influenced by the opportunity to utilize air rights in the center of Manhattan, allowing for additional stories to be built. AMG Demolition was chosen by NorthStar for this project due to its reputation for excellence and ability to meet minority compliance goals, earning a tax incentive for the contractor. Originally contracted to complete only the interior demo, AMG performed above expectations and was asked to stay on to assist NorthStar to perform the total demolition of the skyscraper. AMG’s venture with NorthStar would soon result in an interesting proposal when the global pandemic hit.

When most of the world shut down due to COVID, AMG Demolition showed resilience and adaptability. As the JP Morgan Chase project was interrupted due to the pandemic, Ed King from NorthStar found a way to keep the AMG team employed. They were tasked with various urgent projects, including assisting with natural disaster relief efforts and supporting hospitals. This flexibility and willingness to help in diverse situations not only kept the team working but also showcased a commitment to its employees and the community. AMG’s proactive approach to implementing safety measures, such as daily COVID testing for employees and strict protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, ensured the health and well-being of the workforce.

Another major project was the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) 14th Street renovation with Citnalta Construction and Forte. AMG Demolition has been working with Citnalta on various MTA projects for more than eight years, focusing on subway platform renovations, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance upgrades, and overall station improvements. This work can be complex as AMG strives to work under the tight timelines and strict regulations of the GO (General Order) projects. Citnalta is known for its expertise and professionalism, making it a preferred partner for AMG Demolition. Citnalta and its owners, especially Larry Sibton, is an icon, a friend, and mentor. Capobianco attributes her growth, experience and knowledge to the friendship with Larry. “His knowledge and willingness to share has made me grow, not only as a person but in business.”

AMG construction demolition equipment on jobsite

The Kings County Courthouse interior gutting project is another significant endeavor for AMG Demolition. This project, overseen by the NYC agency DCAS (Department of Citywide Administrative Services), involved the complete renovation of the courthouse, including walls, ceilings, floors, piping, and mechanical rooms. AMG Demolition’s ability to follow trends in capital funding and federal initiatives allowed them to secure this project and showcase technical prowess in handling intricate demolition work. Technico’s George Mantis has made it easy to succeed. “Good people make good, successful projects.”

Looking forward, the trajectory of AMG Demolition is undeniably bright, marked by careful planning and strategic foresight. With a robust backlog of $22 million and exciting new ventures like the collaboration with Forte Construction on the Long Island Railroad project, AMG is positioned for substantial growth. Capobianco has laid a solid foundation for the company’s future by addressing succession planning. Capobianco’s daughters, long-standing members of the AMG team, are poised to acquire ownership when the time is right, ensuring the continuity of AMG’s status as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). By gradually transferring ownership percentages to the next generation of strong, able women, Capobianco is not only securing AMG’s legacy but also reaffirming its commitment to diversity and excellence in the demolition industry.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that Capobianco believes that last and strong bonds with friends and family are the true success from a life in business. “I feel blessed with the resources I have made through the years. MTA’s Lourdes Zapata is a gem, one of a kind. Her role is Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, but she always has time to assist a contractor when necessary. Working with good contractors is everything. They can make or break you on a project. We are lucky that general contractors like Citnalta and Forte treat us like family —like a team. Family is everything to me. The constant support of my husband and children, Gregory, Vienna, Natalie, Anthony and Mark are my true successes in life. That is where I love spending my off time, travelling, enjoying them, and especially spending time with my grandchildren, Leo Davide, Joseph, Olivia, Sydney and Matthew who will hopefully run AMG someday.”

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