Liberty Island Hurricane Recovery

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Faced with the wreckage from one of the costliest and most destructive hurricanes in recent history, Al Cerra knew he needed a high-performing crusher that could turn 1,000 tons of demolished concrete, brick and steel into a high-quality, recycled spec product. But this was no ordinary job site. Cerra, president and owner of Cerra Inc. and a leading provider of portable on-site crushing, was tasked with cleaning up the base of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. There, four residential buildings that previously housed workers had been demolished by Hurricane Sandy. 

The key was finding a crusher that could transport on and off the island quickly by barge, handle the large volume of difficult-to-process material, and complete the job in less than five days. Most importantly, Cerra wanted equipment that was designed, built and supported on U.S. soil in order to restore one of America’s most iconic landmarks.

Armed with the GT125 jaw crusher from Astec, Cerra was not only able to meet the tight deadline, but deliver a major savings as well. By crushing on-site and reusing the material as fill material for the construction of a future museum, Cerra created a $20,000 cost savings – all in just one day’s work.

“Trucking 1,000 tons off the site would have been extremely expensive because everything has to arrive by barge,” said Cerra. “We were able to bring the GT125 in and, in one day, process material that will be laid right back down. If the material would have been removed from the site, it would have taken a minimum of two weeks to truck it out of here, so it’s a big time and cost savings.”


Surmounting the project’s considerable challenges was no easy feat. After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, water rose 10 feet along the sides of the buildings. When the floodwaters receded, everything was torn away with it, including the walls, sidewalks and pavers around the Statue of Liberty. Between the broken infrastructure and damaged electrical and heating systems, renovation was not an option, Cerra said.

Instead, the state contracted Barnard Construction to demolish the buildings. Rather than hauling away the demolished product and trucking in virgin material to fill the small crawl spaces under the buildings and lay a base for new construction, Barnard Construction hired Cerra, Inc. as a subcontractor to crush the material on site to a three-inch-minus spec product.

Cerra, Inc. specializes in beneficial reuse on large industrial sites where material is crushed and screened to make a salable product. The company began in 2000 and services the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Annual production ranges from 350,000-500,000 tons.

Originally, Cerra considered bringing a FT2650 jaw crusher to the site, but determined the machine was too big for the tight footprint of the island. Cerra finally landed on the GT125, a track-mounted jaw crusher ideal for aggregate production, mining, recycle and concrete applications. The GT125’s large, dynamically-balanced, heavy-duty flywheels produce up to 33 percent more inertia than competitive models, leading to a reduced cost per ton over the lifetime of the machine. The crusher’s large, 1-1/4-inch stroke processes more material than competitive models, increasing production and reducing operating costs. A simple manual folding head section on the discharge conveyor reduces the footprint of the machine, reducing shipping costs.

One of the early challenges Cerra faced was transporting the machine on and off Liberty Island. To accomplish this, everything had to fall into place perfectly – from the tide of the water to the timing of the trucks and ferries, said David McLean, crushing and screening application specialist with Penn Jersey Machinery, who rented the GT125 to Cerra.

“We had to hire a private ferry to bring the GT125 out at the right time of the day, and it had to wait overnight to go over the bridge to get on to the Staten Island launch,” he said. “Everything had to work perfectly to get this to line up to get it done in the three- to five-day deadline.”

Cerra also had to strategically overcome the challenge of processing the brick from the facade of the building. The brick had to meet a 3-inch-minus spec, but the bricks themselves were only two inches.

“There was quite a bit of brick, and the brick had to be completely broken up,” Cerra said. “To accomplish this, we had to throw in footings to choke the jaw, and then we had to throw in the bricks behind it and keep that pace going to make sure we cracked the bricks. There was also a lot of rebar from the poured floors – sometimes 10- and 20-foot-long rebar in the pre-fabricated slabs. We probably pulled out at least a dumpster load of rebar alone”

Fortunately for Cerra, the GT125’s low profile design, remote adjust capability and proven reliability made the job easy to complete with no major breakdowns – something that was critical to meeting the tight deadline.

“I love that the GT125 has a low profile on the top so I can see when I’m loading the crusher,” Cerra said. “It doesn’t have big hoppers on it. I’m able to load from the side so I can see the magnet. If something jams in the magnet, I can see that, and if I throw something too big in it sideways, I can tap that piece right down in there.”

“I also absolutely love being able to use the remote adjust,” he continued. “If I drop a piece of steel as I’m loading, I can stop and retrieve what I put in there. Most of the competition’s machines don’t let you do that. They don’t let you track, crush, track, crush. And the hoppers on those machines are so big, you can’t see – you have to be really high on top of them. The remote adjust on the GT125 is absolutely the best I’ve seen. I can stop the crusher and start the crusher. I can low idle, high idle and track it. I can adjust the feeder. If I can see I need to move it up, I spin it up real quick and then I can turn it down just as fast.”

Cerra said it was his familiarity with the FT2650, also manufactured by Astec, that made him confident the GT125 would allow him to get the job done.

“I mostly use the FT2650, and she’s a work horse – a real animal,” he said. “She takes just about anything. We knew if we put the GT125 out here, we would have no problems. We wanted this to go as smoothly as possible with no breakdowns, and we were able to do just that. Most of the equipment that I have is electric, chassis-mounted equipment, so it’s a little bit difficult to pick those pieces up and get them on job sites. With Penn Jersey Machinery carrying the track-mounted equipment from Astec, we’re able to get the track machines in, bang out a job real fast and get out.”


For a job restoring something as fundamentally American as Lady Liberty, Cerra knew he wanted to use American-made equipment to get the job done. But he also knew he needed to find a machine that could perform at the highest level and a distributor that could meet his need for a short-term rental unit and support him through parts and service.

“It’s really important for us to have American-made equipment,” Cerra said. “We bid on everything, and there’s a lot of foreign competition coming in right now for the type of work we do. I have pretty much gotten rid of every European machine I have.”

Equally important to Cerra is parts availability.

“Our livelihood depends on it,” he said. “With overseas parts, they make everything proprietary and you can’t get an answer out of them about their software; it’s just, ‘Go buy a new one.’ But our experience with Astec has been that they will walk you through any software issues, and if that doesn’t work, then you can send it back to them, they’ll reboot it and send it right back to you.”

“That, to me, is one of the most important benefits of American made equipment,” he continued. “We had a lot of issues on one foreign-made machine where a service technician was welding on it and took the computer out and the machine was down for five months. I actually had to call England and talk to a guy out there, who told me I just had to buy a new one. That’s when I decided it was time to stop buying foreign equipment.”

Cerra developed a relationship with McLean and the rest of the team at Penn Jersey Machinery, and quickly took note of the excellent care and service he received. It’s important to his operation that parts are in stock and readily available, he said, and because Penn Jersey Machinery sells an American-made product, they can typically get any part from the factory within a day. That is critical to getting problems resolved quickly and efficiently, he says.

“One of the big benefits of having an American-made machine from Astec is that all of their rollers are CEMA, which is standard throughout the industry,” Cerra said. “I can go to probably four or five different places within 10 minutes of all the jobsites in my area and find those rollers readily available on the shelf. When you’re dealing with European machines, they’re proprietary to each machine so every manufacturer has their own type of roller and they don’t match CEMA, so when you have to get new ones it’s a big issue. You end up having to keep a lot of them in stock in all different sizes. And because all of the dimensions are metric, when we order them, sometimes we get the wrong ones. I have probably 20 to 30 rollers that are the wrong kind laying around. CEMA is the way to go, it’s the American standard and because it’s American-made and right there on the shelf it’s the best thing in the world for my business.”

More than anything, Cerra appreciates the work ethic and values that come from an American company.

“If something is out at nine o’clock at night, Dave McLean is out there with his toolbox out – I’ve never seen a salesman do that in my life,” Cerra said. “He jumps right on top of the machine with me and gets right to it. If I can’t get to it, Dave’s there. He’s called me sometimes at 11 o’clock at night and tells me the job is finished. That’s the kind of service you need in this business to succeed.”

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