New York City

Cowboy in the New York City Sky

Some people might run from heights, but James Pizzuto embraces them

James Pizzuto

What to Know

  • James Pizzuto is a structural ironworker from Long Island
  • He recently finished working on One Vanderbilt
  • ronworkers are responsible for putting together the skeleton of a building, regularly walking across the steel framework of structures to connect and secure the iron pieces together. The work they do gives them their nickname: “cowboys of the sky”

For a typical New Yorker going to work in Manhattan, walking past skyscrapers is common. For many, going into those skyscrapers to actually do their work is common as well.

Actually working on the construction of that skyscraper? Well, that’s not as common.

But it is typical for James Pizzuto, who is a structural ironworker.

Ironworkers are responsible for putting together the skeleton of a building, regularly walking across the steel framework of structures to connect and secure the iron pieces together. The work they do gives them their nickname: “cowboys of the sky.”

Pizzuto, 31, describes it as “framing a house, but instead of two by fours and plywood, it’s steel, it’s iron, and stuff like that.”

Recently, Pizzuto worked on the construction of One Vanderbilt, a building that is expected to rise to 1,401 feet upon its completion, according to its website. He says it feels unnatural when you first start, but like any job, you become used to it after a while.

When the Long Island native arrived to one of his first jobs involving a skyscraper, he was amazed. It was at 30 Hudson Yards, also known as Tower A, in Manhattan.

“And it was massive steel, I mean unbelievable, and I remember showing up my first day and I was like ‘oh wow -- this is ironmaking.’”

And it was massive steel, I mean unbelievable, and I remember showing up my first day and I was like ‘oh wow -- this is ironmaking.'

James Pizzuto, structural ironworker

Seeing the workers slinging their sledgehammers and walking around on the steel, it was a first day he’ll never forget.

He says that anyone that wants to get into ironworking should make sure that it’s something they want to do, and that they should be a hard worker. The good news is that the industry shows strong signs of expansion.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ironworker employment is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, a much faster growth rate than the average of 5% for all occupations.

Copyright NBC New York
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