through the generations

Gotham Construction Company has been a leader in the New York City construction industry for nearly a century. Gotham traces its roots to 1913 when it was founded by Nathan Picket, a first generation immigrant who settled in the tenements of the Lower East Side upon arriving on the shores of North America. Gotham expanded its operations under the guidance of Nathan’s son, David, and Gotham Construction was formally incorporated in 1931. Joel I. Picket, Chairman since 1965, has overseen Gotham’s expansion into the full-service builder as it is known today. Guided by the cumulative experience of four-generations of Pickets, which includes David L. Picket, who leads Gotham’s real estate development division, Gotham Construction has moved through generations to remain a force in its industry.

“The fact that one generation succeeded, and now four have made it is pretty phenomenal,” says David, who can feel a sense of accomplishment in reaching that against-all-odds fourth-generation mark. “The chance of a construction business lasting four generations is a testament to our tenacity, and ability to adapt,” says Joel.“Just to keep a company going and have it as stable as I think we are after all these years—I feel good about that.”

Joel continues to serve as the company’s chairman after more than 40 years at Gotham’s helm. The father-and-son team divides leadership duties over the company’s two-pronged operations. “If you looked at our pie chart of work from 25 years ago, it was mostly hospitals and a lot of institutional work, but recently more weighted to multi-family residential,” says Joel, “however we have continually maintained market presence in all sectors”. Such multi-tasking is a rare find among today’s more specialized construction outfits—a difference that has served Gotham very well. “People know that when they talk to us, they have people who understand the business from every side, not just contracting. And we can be very helpful outside of the box to whomever our clients might be for that reason.”

First-generation Nathan, who, alongside his own son, David, started work as a carpenter and evolved into an owner and builder. With the Depression came some lean years, but they later rebounded by morphing the company into more of a general contracting business. After their deaths in 1944 and 1962, respectively, the company branched out under the direction of Joel to encompass both contracting and development. Having a broad understanding of the business is something that Joel picked up from his father: “He was an amazing technocrat. People used to call him for advice all the time for just about any kind of construction problem.” David reveres his own father in a similar light: “He’s pre-eminent in his field. I don’t think there’s anybody around running a construction business who’s better.”

“When my father prematurely died, the executors of my father’s estate and my family decided that something had to be done,” reflects Joel, leaving the then 20-something to rebuild the company based purely on his father’s good name, and went on to build Gotham into the force it is today. Herein lies one of the hardest challenges in maintaining a family business. “The thing people who you do business with worries about is the viability of the next generation,” say’s Joel, whose initial anxiety has since been replaced by pride in his offspring’s own innovations.

– partial excerpts, NY Observer 2006