Living the Dream
VIK MGM Corp. owner is making New York more beautiful, one construction project at a time
One year after emigrating from Ukraine and arriving in New York with some housing and road construction experience plus several academic degrees, Anatoli “Tony” Melnik accomplished his goal of launching his own company in America.
Today, VIK MGM Corp., a multimillion-dollar company born in 1994 and headquartered in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, New York, provides a range of construction services for commercial and residential clients—from private residences and retail build-outs to large-scale commercial projects. Clients, which include the Trump Organization and Barnard College, are impressive and demanding when it comes to needs and requirements, and Melnik loves it.
“We all have dreams, and my dream has always been to have my own company here in the United States and in one of the world’s most beautiful cities,” says Melnik, whose degrees include a master’s in economics from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. “We’re making New York even more beautiful with each of our projects.”
After arriving in the United States, Melnik spent a year studying construction management and law at New York University while also working as a laborer then supervisor at Everest Construction Development Corp. in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens. Then he launched VIK MGM—the name is a nod to a family-run, non-construction business in Ukraine—and his quest to make New York more beautiful. The company’s first project was a glass-enclosed community room at the Goodwill Industries International Inc. building in Astoria, New York.
Among the challenges: Beth Jacob Day School/Bais Yaakov D’Rav Meir High School, a private PreK-12 girls school in Brooklyn completed in 2012. What made this 18-month project unique and especially difficult, says Melnik, was its above- and below-ground requirements. Local ordinances restricted the building’s height to 50 feet. So, plans called for the building to continue 40 feet below ground.
The result: an eight-floor-high school with four above-ground floors and four below-ground floors. The underground construction, which included classrooms and a gymnasium, took some planning, says Melnik, adding that it’s “very unusual to have so much space underground.”
Accomplishing that required building down in order to build up. That is, a deep enough hole had to be dug in order for floors to be added. “With that comes structural challenges when adding floors,” Melnik says. “This required underpinning using high-strength concrete and rebar as we created mini columns to support layers as we added the floors. He says it also required a second foundation to support the above-ground floors and provide structural support below ground. “This was one of our more unusual projects,” he notes.
Another unusual project came in the form of the Richmond County Supreme Court on Staten Island, which required demolition and renovation of six floors of the century-old building. While the building’s Neoclassical exterior, with its Corinthian columns adorned with scrolls and acanthus leaves, beautifully withstood the test of time, the building’s interior beckoned for a complete makeover. This included all of the plumbing and electrical plus the installation of structurally sound flooring to support the weight of court-records books “weighing three or four times more than what floors are normally designed to hold,” Melnik says.
In addition, 30 bathrooms were remodeled, 27 rooftop air-conditioning units installed and two elevators were replaced. “That was quite a challenge,” Melnik recalls of the elevators. “We followed the structural drawings submitted by the court’s engineers, cut through existing floors, installed concrete shafts, provided waterproof sealing and installed railings and wiring. The elevators took four months, and the project was completed in a year. It was accomplished very quickly,” he notes, proudly.
Not all challenges are structural; some are purely logistical. For example, renovation work on the 37th through 40th floors of the Trump Organization’s 40 Wall Street, a 72-story Neogothic skyscraper, was done at night “after and before normal working hours,” Melnik says.
Another example: renovation of classrooms, laboratories, offices, dormitories and the dining hall at Barnard College, a private women’s college, had to be done over an eight-year span during the summer months when most students were away. “Two shifts in three-month intervals provided Barnard with what it needed without disrupting the business of education,” Melnik explains.
Melnik’s can-do attitude and commitment to quality won VIK MGM a Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in Design & Construction and continues to gain the company impressive jobs. The company is currently revamping a five-story Park Slope apartment building into luxury condominiums. “We’re all about making New York even more beautiful,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into every project. That’s who I am.”
Melnik also cares greatly about his 30 employees—five in the office and 25 in the field. Six of those, including his brother, Vlad, have been with him since the company’s inaugural year.
“I want to see my employees grow in their knowledge and succeed,” Melnik says. “So the company pays for construction education classes at New York University. Bonuses are provided for employees who work especially hard and whose work is exceptional. And if an employee needs help with buying a house, we assist with that. We also assist the homeless with our support of The Tony Robbins Foundation.”
Whether Melnik one day returns to Ukraine as a builder remains to be seen—he doesn’t rule that out as a possibility. For now, he and his company will continue the quest to beautify New York, one construction project at a time.