BY LUIS GRONDA
Gerald Caliendo’s architecture business started with four employees, but has since grown into one of the premier establishments in the industry.
Caliendo was one of the honorees of the Queens Tribune’s third annual Business Achievement awards, held on Monday at Queens College.
The company, Gerald Caliendo Architects, started in 1994 in Briarwood, looking to get established in the architect business.
Since then, it has grown to about 45 employees and work on projects citywide.
In an interview with the Queens Tribune, Caliendo partially credits that growth to working with Phil Agusta, former commissioner of the Boards of Standards and Appeals.
He said that working alongside Agusta enabled him to learn the ins and outs of zoning and variance laws, something other businesses know little to nothing about.
“We have a broader knowledge of those laws than most architects,” Caliendo said. “With that experience, we are able to capitalize on the building industry by getting approvals at the Buildings Department.”
He added that many architect businesses often have to hire a zoning attorney when designing plans for a property, but Caliendo said they do work in-house.
Caliendo also credited his parents with influencing him to start his own business.
He said his mom was a commercial artist, who specialized in making wooden boxes, and his father was a truck driver and box maker. He describes his architect business as combining the two jobs his parents worked at into one.
Caliendo’s business has designed some popular buildings in Queens, including the Z-Hotel, the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, both in Long Island City and Studio Square in Astoria.
His businesses are working on an 11-story, 50-unit apartment complex in Long Island City as well as various of other apartments throughout Queens.
During his acceptance speech on Monday, Caliendo said they had an ethical way of doing business and are the largest architectural firm outside of Manhattan.
“Growing a small architectural business in Queens is very tough because there’s a lot of competition obviously with the Borough of Manhattan, where there are thousands of architects,” Caliendo said.
As for the future of his business, Caliendo said there is the possibility to grow even more, but they are at their limit, with him as the sole owner. He would need another person to help him shoulder the load if that were to happen.
They are currently expanding their headquarters in Briarwood, adding three floors to the building to provide its employees with more working space.