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Wizard of the blizzard

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  • SIMA
- Posted: April 18, 2018
By Cheryl Higley

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C&C Landscape Contractors thrives in servicing myriad property types, including the new City Point residential and retail complex in bustling Brooklyn.

Snow and ice used to be an afterthought for Brooklyn, NY-based C&C Landscape Contractors, owned by Joe Costanzo. His father founded the business after being discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1959, Costanzo says, and did snow work because there was nothing else to do in the winter. 

“Because it wasn’t a focus, the equipment wasn’t great but they prepared the best they could. When I bought the business 20 years ago, my first goal was to upgrade to modern equipment and start doing snow and ice management more professionally,” he says. 

Along with the modernization of equipment, Costanzo chose to change the type of clientele the company courted. The easy sell was to service the condominiums and housing co-ops that were already clients, but logistically they were nightmares due to their urban locations. Today C&C has expanded its portfolio to include residential, distribution, transportation, retail and medical in three of the largest New York boroughs by population - Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. The focus is on larger sites with bigger budgets and clients willing to pay for the level of quality promised.

“We’ve built relationships in different industries and arenas, and the diversity keeps things interesting. It’s always a challenge. There’s more square footage and volume but (it makes) more sense. We dedicate equipment and operators so we’re not driving in city traffic,” Costanzo says.

Operators are matched to sites closest to them. For example, those who are assigned to a large apartment complex in Manhattan take the subway from Washington Heights, do a safety check on their equipment, fire them up and go. “It’s stressful enough living in the city; we want to make it as easy as possible for our team to do their jobs.”

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C&C Landscape Contractors owner Joe Costanzo has rebranded the company to focus more on snow, which means transitioning to larger sites with higher service level requirements that are more lucrative and reduce travel time in the highly populated New York City market.

The art of the deal
Attracting new clients in a New York City market flush with competition requires networking, confidence and a proven track record. 

“Everything here is quick, quick, quick; and there are no second chances. You get one shot with snow in the city. If you plant a tree and it dies, you replace it. In snow, you either performed or you failed,” Costanzo says. 

That mindset requires C&C to leave nothing to chance. Every possible scenario is identified, prepared for and communicated to both the team and the client. C&C has a standard operating procedure (SOP) for everything (even how to write a SOP). “Everything is planned perfectly in the most intelligent and logical way. We do what we say we’ll do and gain their trust,” Costanzo says. 

Jeremy Hill, senior regional property manager for Acadia Realty Trust, notes that attention to detail is imperative at City Point, a 1.8-million-square-foot mixed-use high-rise development in downtown Brooklyn. Competition in the facilities management sector is fierce, with the expectation that their contractors will deliver the best service to set the property apart.

“A lot of city building owners and developers are OK with being just like their neighbor and providing the minimum requirement for sidewalk maintenance. We want the shopper to know City Point will be safe, inviting and ready for customers to have a good experience rain or shine. C&C truly is part of meeting that goal,” Hill explains. “City Point is a zero-tolerance contract for snow removal, and that’s not easy in an urban environment where there is always foot traffic. C&C’s team is proactive and always thinking ahead of even me and my staff. Joe is also very good at communicating and following up with his guys making sure the site is as we expect and consistent with the C&C and City Point brands.”

When the snow has to go
The C&C brand has been evolving over the past few years as the company targets snow as its primary revenue generator. Landscape construction has long been the heart of the company, but Costanzo says he also has developed a love for snow and ice. 

“New landscape construction in the city is a challenge. The submittal process and jumping through hoops is obnoxious. But snow is easy: You land the job, prepare and do it,” he says. “I love learning about new means and methods, new technology. We are nowhere near where I’d like to be but I love the journey toward where I want to be.” 
C&C’s Geniti steers equipment decisions
When Joe Costanzo realized he needed to modernize his fleet, he leaned on his mechanic, Matthew Geniti, to help guide those purchases. Over the past four years, Costanzo has relied on Geniti’s expertise to assess each site and determine the best equipment to purchase and allocate. 

“I couldn’t be where I am today without him. His knowledge and passion has been invaluable,” Costanzo says.

C&C Landscape Contractors is responsible for a square block of sidewalk at City Point, a new retail center in downtown Brooklyn with no shortage of snow removal challenges: pedestrian congestion, no stacking allowed, solar lights embedded in the sidewalk, restrictions on deicing materials and bare pavements required.

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Solar lights embedded in the sidewalk make C&C’s equipment and deicer choices a challenge.

To accomplish this, C&C Landscape Contractors stations a side-by-side UTV outfitted with a broom, spreader and liquid tanks (and a plow in reserve just in case) in an underground garage. The versatile machine allows one operator to do the job of what used to be a three-person team.

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Underground storage at a customer’s site allows the C&C operator to begin service quickly in a vehicle outfitted for ultimate efficiency.

“When you are working for clients with a budget to spend, it enables you to hire a good operator and buy the best equipment available,” Costanzo says. “We embrace the challenge of delivering the highest level of service possible.”

Geniti is the brainchild behind the company’s growing brine program, which was launched after Costanzo attended a session at the SIMA Snow & Ice Symposium and connected with a supplier at the GIE show. 

“We made our first batch of brine two or three years ago and are expanding operations next season. We plan to market it to sites that we do not currently service as a differentiator in the marketplace,” he says. 

C&C’s “eureka” brine use moment came at an airport location where the operator has to have a technician accompany him to certain areas of the site due to safety and security concerns.

“We anti-iced and then by the time we were able to get into the site were faced with 8 to 10 inches of snow that had been driven on for hours. We dropped our blades and the pavement was black and wet in one pass. I’ll never manage snow again without it,” Costanzo notes. 

Cheryl Higley is editorial director of Snow Business magazine. Email her at cheryl@sima.org. Photos by Dave Neff.
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