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Gotham Gigs: Hornblower's project director went to great lengths to build NYC's fleet


BUILDING THE DREAM Volpe moved to New York from Brazil with the desire to create something.

The moment Mayor Bill de Blasio named Hornblower the winner of the city’s new ferry contract in March 2016, Junior Volpe knew his life was about to change.

As the director of special projects for the ferry company, Volpe would be in charge of managing the design, construction and delivery of the vessels.

The NYC Ferry contract was for 20 high-speed passenger boats. It was one of the biggest orders of new vessels in U.S. maritime history. The first 16 had to be finished and delivered by this summer, barely a year later.

“Normally it takes eight or nine months to build a boat like this from scratch,” Volpe said. “Now we were going to be building more than a dozen simultaneously. Nothing like this had ever been done before.”

Once Hornblower got approval for the design, the company found two shipyards in the Gulf Coast with enough capacity between them to handle the order.

Volpe left his Wall Street office near Pier 11 behind and began spending one week a month at company apartments near the shipyards, either in Mobile, Ala., or Lafayette, La. By September 2016 he was living three and half weeks a month on the Gulf Coast, overseeing the work.

Shipyards operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “When you’re down there, there’s no holidays. There’s no Sunday. You just go, go, go,” he said.

Volpe moved to New York from Brazil in 1999, fresh out of compulsory military service, knowing only that he wanted to work in construction management. “I always saw myself in production, involved in making and building things,” he said. “Building what? I didn’t know.”

His first job was as an apprentice fiberglass fabricator helping to build yachts at a shipyard in Mamaroneck, Westchester. He worked his way up to joinery outfield manager, in charge of a yacht’s interior, and then moved into vessel design and construction.

So when it came to overseeing the assembly of a fleet, he was not afraid to get into the details—like the welding style of the windows, the shade of paint and the upholstery fabric.

“We needed consistency. We didn’t want a passenger or a crew member to notice any difference between the boats from either shipyard,” he said.

By May Hornblower had delivered five ferries, enough to launch the service one month early. For Volpe, it felt like a victory: “I was nervous, stressed, relieved and proud.” And back home—for a few days.


Junior Volpe

AGE: 38 BORN: Sao Paolo, Brazil RESIDES: Mount Vernon EDUCATION: Certificate in business administration, Faculdades Integradas de Ourinhos, Brazil THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Volpe spent several years as a professional soccer player for clubs Londrina Esporte and União Bandeirante in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. He retired from futebol at 18 to begin military service. HOME SWEET: HOME He was traveling to the Gulf Coast so much that a June staycation was the first time since Christmas he had spent five nights in a row in his own bed. COMFORT FOOD: Volpe frequented the same two restaurants when working down south. “When you walk into a place and people know your name, it’s time to move on.”

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