For a Local Construction Worker, the Best View of New York Is Home

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nelson Vega

Nelson Vega, a painter with DC9 Local 18, at the Lenfest Center for the Arts

Nelson Vega always has the best view in the house.

As a painter with the DC 9 Local 18 for more than 10 years, he has worked on high profile projects throughout New York City, including the Chrysler Building, the Plaza Hotel renovation and Rockefeller Center.

“One of the best views ever was when I did work from the first building at the tip of Manhattan. I had a vantage point to everything from there.”

Now painting at the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University’s Manhattanville development, Vega has a very special view: his home.

Vega is from East 94th Street. The great view he sees from the project is from up above, and also the benefits taking place in his community at street level down below.

“I see people from the neighborhood working at this project, and laborers who live a couple blocks away. Those opportunities are great to see,” explained Vega.

To Vega, the opportunity with DC 9 presented both a strong future with a pension, benefits and annuity, and a chance to do what he loves – working with his hands.

“Before this, I was working for a law firm. Being able to work with my hands is a much more natural fit.”

Lest anyone be confused, Vega’s painting responsibilities are not what many associate with painting interior walls. Vega withstands the elements, painting the exterior steel to cover up the welding and make it look more presentable.

In the locations he paints from, safety is paramount, and Vega has noticed a difference at the Columbia project.

“I see the head of fire safety for the site six or seven times per day here, where another project I might see that person at the beginning of a project and never again,” commented Vega. “Safety is serious business here, and it has to be. Navigating through the building is a challenge in itself. People’s materials are everywhere that you need to be cautious when walking around. You can’t be casual, or you will get hurt.”

For Vega, the best part of the job is being able to admire the beauty of his work when the building is completed. And with the Lenfest Center, that beauty will reside in his backyard.