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When Barbara Kavovit was called in to pitch her construction business as the right choice to execute plans for new offices at New York’s 99 Hudson Street, she knew what her angle would be.
“I told them I would take a personal interest in the job, make sure women trades were on the project, and put a woman on as project manager for the day-to-day,” says Kavovit, the owner of Evergreen Construction.
There was a reason behind her vision: the second floor of this Tribeca building owned by Olshan Properties was a former office of the Weinstein Company, the production company once run by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie producer who has been convicted of sexual assault. The business owned a separate New York office in Tribeca as well.
When the Evergreen team—with a demolition crew that was 35% female, a high rate for the industry—arrived at the site, they found a few lingering signs that this office belonged to a notable former inhabitant. There was no casting couch, but framed posters for some of Weinstein’s more recent films under the Weinstein Company banner sat on the abandoned office’s floors—one of which Kavovit says she smashed with a hammer herself.
Kavovit—who, as a former star of the Real Housewives of New York, is familiar with the entertainment business—brought on women-led contractors from Mikoma Electric and Alba Demolition, who executed a design led by Keri Mate of architecture firm Design Republic. The company completed its work on the space last month.
“I had a permanent smile on my face as I watched each wall come down. I took a sledgehammer and started bashing in the walls,” Kavovit says. “I felt a feeling of triumph, of closure, and rebuilding to make it better. It was a shift to me that as a woman-owned business we got hired to take down Harvey Weinstein’s offices.”
The construction industry is notably male-dominated; according to the National Association of Women in Construction, women in 2018 made up 9.9% of the industry, including office jobs. “It’s not an industry that’s easy to get into,” Kavovit says. “It’s an old boys’ network.”
Kavovit’s experience in construction influenced how she thought about the meaning of this particular project. “I’ve had a lot of Harveys in my life,” Kavovit says. “People use their power and influence to take advantage. In entertainment and in the construction industry—mostly men use the same tactics.”
The new office is in line with pre-COVID-19 office trends, with natural-lit, open, common spaces rather than a line of private rooms around the floor’s perimeter. For Kavovit, that design was symbolic, as she considered that many of the women who say they were harassed or assaulted by Weinstein say they were brought behind closed doors under the pretext of work meetings. Mate, one of the architects who worked on the space, adds that the old office was “not inviting.”
The new space is “safer, more inclusive. If you’re standing on one side of the office you can see the other,” Kavovit says. “The ghosts are gone.”
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- Why the power to change the female-founder double standard rests with VCs
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