BY BENJAMIN FANG
More than 400 business and government leaders attended the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s annual Building Awards gala last month, the chamber’s largest event in its history.
The chamber gave awards to 17 top construction and design projects in the borough, including three awards for the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the event was held for the first time.
At the gala, the Queens Chamber honored new Buildings Commissioner Melanie La Rocca, a Queens native who previously served as vice president of development and external affairs at the School Construction Authority (SCA).
“It’s no surprise to anybody in this room that Queens is booming,” La Rocca said. “Your good business is our good business.”
According to the commissioner, in the second quarter of 2019, the city has seen the second highest number of building permits ever. In Queens alone, more than 8,000 permits were issued.
“We’re here to make sure your projects get to yes,” she said. “The faster you get working, the faster you get working on your next project. That’s good for all of us.”
Tyler Morse, CEO and managing partner of MCR and MORSE Development, which brought the TWA Hotel to life, delivered the keynote address at the Building Awards. Morse called the TWA Hotel, a project he worked on for five years, the single most important architectural building in the country.
“I always admired Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece, the TWA Flight Center,” he said. “It always struck me as tragic that it was dark for 15 years.”
According to Morse, Howard Hughes, who acquired TWA in 1939, was determined to build “the greatest airport terminal the world had ever seen.” Hughes, one of the richest people in the world, hired Eero Saarinen for the job. Hughes told Saarinen he didn’t care how much the project cost. TWA never value-engineered the building, which came in at four times the original cost, Morse said.
“That’s why it’s a piece of art more than an airplane terminal,” he said. “I call it the eighth wonder of the world.”