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When Barbara Kavovit was brought in to refer to her construction business as the right choice for executing plans for new offices at 99 Hudson Street, New York, she knew what her point of view would be.
“I told them I would be personally interested in the job, make sure there were women in the project and have a woman as the project manager for everyday life,” says Kavovit, the owner of Evergreen Construction.
There was a reason for their vision: the second floor of this Tribeca building by Olshan Properties was a former office of the Weinstein Company, the production company once run by Harvey Weinstein, the shamed film producer convicted of sexual assault. The company owned a separate New York office also in Tribeca.
When the Evergreen team – with a demolition crew 35% female, a high rate for the industry – arrived at the site, they found some lingering evidence that this office was owned by 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 were on the floors of the abandoned office – one of them says Kavovit she smashed it with a hammer herself.
Kavovit – who as a former star of the Real New York housewivesis familiar with the entertainment business – with female-led contractors from Mikoma Electric and Alba Demolition doing a design under the direction of Keri Mate of Design Republic architecture firm. The company completed its work on the space last month.
“I had a constant smile on my face as I watched every wall fall down. I took a sledge hammer and started hitting the walls, ”says Kavovit. “I felt a sense of triumph, closure and rebuilding to do better. For me it was a shift that as a female owned company we were hired to take down Harvey Weinstein’s offices. ”
The construction industry is mainly dominated by men; according to the National Association of Women in ConstructionWomen made up 9.9% of the industry in 2018, including office jobs. “It’s not an industry that is easy to get into,” says Kavovit. “It’s a network of old boys.”
Kavovit’s experience in construction influenced how she reflected on the importance of this particular project. “I’ve had a lot of Harveys in my life,” says Kavovit. “People use their power and influence to take advantage. Most men in the entertainment and construction industries use the same tactics. ”
The new office is in line with pre-COVID-19 office trends and features naturally lit, open common spaces instead of a series of private rooms around the floor. For Kavovit, this design was symbolic as she believed that many of the women who said they had been molested or attacked by Weinstein were put 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 “uninviting”.
The new space is “safer, more inclusive. If you stand on one side of the office, you can see the other, ”says Kavovit. “The ghosts are gone.”
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