August 16, 2022

Square Feet | The 30-Minute Interview: Peter M. Lehrer

Q How large is your company?

A Actually, the firm consists of myself and some associations, when necessary, on certain projects. I went from managing a firm of 2,000 people to a very small hands-on firm.

What was difficult was finding out that I had to do a lot of things by myself that I used to ask other people to do. But managing a large firm means that you’re spending most of your time managing people, so in this phase of my career I’m able to devote all my time to managing projects.

Q What services do you provide?

A What Leher LLC does is high-level strategic consulting. It is specifically geared to providing advice to clients on very complicated projects. I try to challenge myself and the rest of the team to be more innovative to find ways to do something faster, for less money. Because it is a hands-on service, I limit the number of assignments that I take.

Q Do you work with many of the large developers?

A I have, yes. I’m working with Dan Brodsky, and that’s a 30-year-plus relationship.

I have been the consultant to the Zeckendorfs on 15 Central Park West.

And I have enormous respect for Steve Roth at Vornado.

Q Do you know what’s happening with Vornado’s proposed 20 Times Square building, which you were hired to work on?

A I think on that one you have to talk to Vornado. I believe that they have a phenomenal site and an amazing design, and I’m very confident they will find a tenant for that building.

Q How many projects are you involved with?

A Usually I’m involved with four or five projects at one time. Right now it’s the new Whitney Museum; the Columbia University expansion at the new Manhattanville campus; two projects in Harlem, the Hunter School of Social Work and the CUNY Graduate Center Foundation Housing Building; and the new Avenue School on 11th Avenue.

Q What was your role with the Columbia expansion project?

A I’m part of the team for the master plan. It is a long-term phase project, and the first building is the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, designed by Renzo Piano. It was a complicated approval process.

Q You’ve also had a role in Hudson Yards.

A I was a consultant to Hudson Yards on the construction of the No. 7 line and some of the early planning on the platforms and the request for proposal that selected the developer.

Q What is the average on-time record for the projects that you work on?

A There’s no such thing as not being on time. It just can’t exist — you have to be on time.

Q Are you ever overbudget?

A Both of them go hand in hand. You have a responsibility to meet budgets and schedules, and that’s why I’m there.

I would have to say there must have been some times that we were over budget, but offhand I can’t think of any of those times. It’s not typical, but it is construction and stuff happens.

Q Let’s move on to the World Trade Center, and specifically, the memorial.

A That will open on 9/11/11 — the 10th anniversary. At least the plaza and the fountains will open; the museum will open a year later. There are a lot of people right now working a lot of hours to get that finished. If you were standing down there, you’d see people finishing up the plaza, planting the balance of the trees, finishing the nameplates of the 2,982 victims going around the plaza. There will be almost five acres of beautifully landscaped space.

Q What has been your most challenging project to date?

A I get asked that question a lot. I think that the most challenging project was the reconstruction of the Statue of Liberty, because it had so many complexities. It was an honor to be given that responsibility. I’m now on the board of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which has sort of taken me full circle.

Q What do you do for fun?

A I think, unfortunately, I love working, and if I’m not physically working I’m mentally thinking about the work.

Q It’s safe to say then that you have no plans to retire.

A Not voluntarily. I just think retiring is bad for your health.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=63eb65baaa416bc8311b06a393dc1ed1

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