By Almeda Girod
Riderwood resident Edward Plotkin received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from City College of the City University of New York on May 31, in recognition of his many contributions to the New York community.
Ed is proud of his childhood roots in the Bronx. He quotes Frank Sinatra “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” The Bronx was a community of immigrants, and Ed’s family was no different: his mother was from Poland and his father was from Belarus. They were striving to improve their lives. Ed says there was “every ethnic background” where he, his parents, and two siblings lived in a two-bedroom apartment.
He was drafted in the Army and married “the girl from across the street.” The Army paid for their honeymoon when they moved to his duty station in Panama
Ed, after earning civil engineering degrees, worked with design engineers (buildings and infrastructures), gaining valuable experience with both engineering and interpersonal skills. This led to a position with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which included international travel and assignments.
His first large project was as construction manager of a dry dock in Brooklyn for a new aircraft carrier. Later, he was the design and construction manager in D.C. for the modification of the streets surrounding the underground garages for the Longworth and Rayburn Buildings.
Another large project was the New York City subway line crossing mid-Manhattan through Central Park, and later he was in charge of the construction of the Friendship Heights and Tenleytown Metro stations on the Red Line under Wisconsin Avenue in D.C. Later came the Porter Square Station in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The common theme was deep underground construction. Ed comments, “I did not see light of day,” adding, “and if I did, there was a problem.”
His last project was finishing New York City’s new water tunnel through the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, crossing rivers and blasting under hundreds of apartment buildings. Ed once commented to New York’s Mayor Ed Koch, “the birth rate went up,” due to the 3 A.M. explosions. In addition to overseeing these construction projects, he taught environmental science in Sing Sing and Bedford correctional institutions, and he was Commissioner of New York State Westchester County Public Works with a staff of 450. Ed was also the chairman of Dobbs Ferry Village planning board for 50 years and never once missed a meeting. He received commendations from Governor Cuomo and President Obama when he retired in 2016 and moved to Riderwood.
Ed and Frances, his wife of 27 years, decided on Riderwood when they visited his brother, Henry Plotkin, who has lived at Riderwood 18 years. Despite Ed previously feeling, “that when you leave New York, you are only camping,” the couple has made their home at Riderwood. They enjoy their Hunter Glen apartment even though they do go back to New York occasionally to, as Ed puts it, “recharge their batteries.”
Ed continues using his engineering skills, often traveling around North America as a consultant to settle engineering related disputes between various parties.