In a city as large as New York, there are always construction projects in various stages of development. With land space tight, new construction often means demolition of outdated buildings and roads. In years past, nearly all the concrete and other hardscape building materials were hauled to a landfill. That practice has changed in the past decade, helping usher in companies that recycle those materials, such as Empire Sand & Stone Corp.
Located in Westbury, about 30 minutes east of Manhattan, Empire Sand & Stone was one of the first in the greater New York metropolitan area to turn aging materials back into a useful product instead of waste. Founded in 1997 by President Frank Piccoli and Vice President Patrick Deacetis, the company now recycles upward of 200,000 yards of concrete, brick and other materials.
“Many contractors crush and recycle a little bit of concrete to use on their own small projects, such as subbase under a driveway,” noted Piccoli, who along with Deacetis also owns and operates Eagle Ready Mix in Middle Island, N.Y. “What sets us apart is that we’re crushing and recycling mass quantities all the time and selling it to outside customers. We’re strictly a supplier, not a construction company.
“What also sets us apart is that our aggregate material is state- and county-approved for subbase underneath paving,” he added. “Very few suppliers make that material by recycling old paving and building materials. Being state approved means we have to be very conscientious in our process, ensuring that no hazardous materials and no more than 5 percent brick or asphalt get into it. To ensure that doesn’t happen, we clean and separate all the material that comes in before it becomes a recycled product.”
Making beneficial products
Empire Sand & Stone’s supply list includes three products made from recycled paving and building materials: RCA (recycled concrete aggregate) three-quarter-inch contractors blend, RCA state blend and mason/concrete sand. The company also carries Cambridge paving stones, Portland cement, mortar, wire mesh and expansion joint. Customers haul most of the aggregate materials out in their own trucks, but Empire Sand & Stone will also arrange for delivery from its two-and-onehalf- acre yard.
“Most of our materials go out within a 50-mile radius, which is the same area that we’re bringing material in from,” said Piccoli. “That includes Manhattan and the roadways into and out of the city. On a few occasions, we’ve crushed old pavement that’s gone right back underneath the new roadway as subbase. It’s really a great benefit because it costs less than buying bluestone and there’s less waste going into the landfill.”
The company has supplied material for several large roadway projects, including the Long Island Expressway. It also supplied material for construction on the Meadowbrook Parkway and several New York Department of Transportation projects near the Hamptons.
“Those are the types of projects we like to be involved in, but we’ll work with customers to supply materials for any type and size of job they have,” said Piccoli. “Good products backed by good customer service are what we’ve built the business on. We run six days a week, because that’s generally the schedule our customers keep. A lot of construction work in this area takes place at night, so if a customer needs materials then, I’ll stay open all night for them.
“In fact, my customers have been partners in growing our business,” he added. “They bring the materials in and buy what we make. One of my best customers, Thomas Ruttura from Ruttura & Sons, was instrumental in helping us find our location and get started. I owe him, and all my customers, a great deal of gratitude.”
Service from Ehrbar leads to Komatsu purchases
Piccoli said he is also grateful for the help the staff at Edward Ehrbar Inc. has provided Empire Sand & Stone throughout the years. With the help of Sales Representative Dan Stanton, Piccoli has purchased a PC300 excavator and two Komatsu wheel loaders — a new Tier 3-compliant WA500-6 and a WA450-3. Additionally, Empire calls on Ehrbar to service its Nordberg 1352 Omnicone crusher.
“Service is a major factor in our equipment-buying decisions, and Dan, Matt Ahern, Pat Ahern and Larry McCrann have always been very good to work with,” confirmed Piccoli. “In fact, it’s because of them that we bought our first Komatsu machine. For the first few years of business we ran all competitive brands. We didn’t believe we were getting the service we expected, and Ehrbar stepped up to the plate and helped us out. It’s become a one-stop shop for us, and as time goes on, there’s a very good possibility that we’ll switch out the competitive machines we have left with Komatsu.”
Empire Sand & Stone uses its Komatsu wheel loaders to charge the crusher and load trucks. The new WA500-6 came equipped with Komatsu’s KOMTRAX remote machine-monitoring system.
“It’s performed well beyond our expectations,” Piccoli said of the 353-horsepower machine. “With the Tier 3 engine, it’s great on fuel which saves us money. Add to that a bigger bucket capacity than we had before, and our cost per yard is better.
“KOMTRAX allows us to track the machine’s performance, location and service intervals,” he emphasized. “It’s a way for us to ensure the machine keeps running at optimum performance. If there’s a potential issue, an error code pops up, so we can fix it while it’s minor and avoid a costly problem later. It’s a very effective tool that adds a lot of value to the WA500.”
Because much of the raw material that’s brought to Empire Sand & Stone is in large chunks, the company has to break it up into smaller pieces to put into its crushers. To do that, the company equipped its Komatsu PC300 excavator with a Tramac hammer.
“Breaking up those larger pieces is hard on a machine, but the PC300 has had no problem standing up to the challenge,” Piccoli stated. “It has good hydraulic flow to the hammer so it breaks up the materials fairly easily. It’s a workhorse.”
Outstanding staff helps build large customer base
Piccoli knows first-hand how each machine runs. As a very hands-on owner, if he’s not meeting with customers he’s probably running equipment. Piccoli and Deacetis are part of a staff of eight who do all the work necessary for Empire Sand & Stone to turn used materials into useful products.
“We have an excellent staff that’s very hardworking and conscientious about making quality products,” said Piccoli. “With their help, we’ve built up a clientele of about 450 customers in the 11 years we’ve been here. They understand we’re a service-oriented company and they do everything they can to please the customer. They’re an outstanding group.”
Piccoli expects his customers and employees will help the business continue to grow.
“We believe growth is a necessity,” he said. “The market for recycling is growing. More and more of it will be done as time goes on because it’s good for the environment to reuse the existing material. We expect to continue to increase our production.”