The following Babalú exclusive is an excerpt from author Fernando “Fernan” Hernandez’s book, “The Cubans, Our Footprints Across America,” which documents the incredible stories of Cuban refugees who came to America, the land of opportunity, and achieved incredible success through hard work and determination.
More excerpts will appear in the coming weeks…
Ysrael Abraham Seinuk (1931-2010) was a structural engineer who designed the structure for many landmark skyscrapers in New York and around the world. He also taught structural engineering at New York City ’s Cooper Union and was ranked by Time magazine as one of the 25 “Most Influential Hispanics in America ”. Seinuk was born in Havana in 1931, the only child of immigrant Lithuanian Jews. Ysrael graduated from the University of Havana in 1954 and fled Cuba to New York after the communist revolution. Seinuk recalled that he arrived in the United States with little more than $20 in his pocket, “my slide ruler and my diploma from the University of Havana ”.
In New York he joined the engineering firm of Abrams, Hertzberg & Cantor. He later became a partner of what became known as Cantor Seinuk. He also founded a separate firm, Ysrael A. Seinuk, P.C. in 1977. Seinuk became one of the world’s foremost experts in the structural design of skyscrapers. The New York Times wrote that he “made it possible for many of New York City ’s tallest new buildings to withstand wind, gravity and even earthquakes”. He has been credited with innovations in the use of reinforced concrete as a structural material in skyscrapers. Elizabeth O’Donnell, associate dean of architecture at Cooper Union, called Seinuk “the person who brought reinforced concrete to New York City , because this was primarily a city where its high-rises were structured in steel”. In 2004, Real Estate Weekly wrote, “you can’t walk down the streets of Manhattan without seeing a building that famed structural engineer Ysrael Seinuk hasn’t touched”.
Seinuk and his company engineered more than 50 high-rise office buildings and hundreds of apartment structures in New York . He was dubbed “Mr. New York ” for his engineering of New York ’s skyscrapers. Seinuk worked on a number of skyscrapers for Donald Trump, including the 70-story Trump World Tower , Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the 58-story Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue . Trump said of Seinuk, “Ysrael Seinuk and his staff are the best in the business”.
Other structures that Seinuk worked on include New York ’s Lipstick Building , the New York Mercantile Exchange, the 48-story Conde Mast Building , the 45-story Bear Stearns Building , and the Arthur Ashe Stadium. He also worked on the Chapultepec Tower in Mexico City and the 0-14 Tower in Dubai . Seinuk was honored with The Fazlur Khan Lifetime Achievement Medal from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in 2010. He was also a licensed engineer in 15 states, the District of Columbia , Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom.
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