Peter Cassano was going to get the Manhattan ice cream route if it killed him.
It may seem like a strange place to start for the New York Mets’ current executive director of building operations, but it wound up being the type of endeavor that would later foreshadow the perseverance he exemplifies in his career.
Shortly after marrying his wife, Helen, Cassano landed the Long Island shift of the ice cream route, a far cry from the highest paying route in New York City’s most densely populated borough across the bridge. Helen joined him for a dry run to familiarize themselves with the route on the day before he started, a habit that she continued anytime that Cassano was met with a new challenge.
“My goal the second I got that route was to get into Manhattan,” Cassano says, a fervor of determination still evident in his voice. And he did.
Cassano notes he’s always been the kind of person who wanted to lead the team. It didn’t matter what the job was; he just wanted to be the best. “I always like to strive to do more,” Cassano says. “I was willing to work hard and to put in the time.”
Of course, his leap from ice cream delivery man to building operations executive director for a major league baseball team didn’t happen overnight. Cassano’s next move was as a plumber, after he secured an application for New York City Plumber’s Union #1 as the 54th applicant out of only 500 open positions for the entire city. Landing that kind of coveted spot was akin to a Black Friday sale—Cassano and Helen set up chairs the night before along with dozens of others who were also hoping to enter the trade, the line stretching for blocks.
Police helped Cassano run electricity off a light pole so they could plug in a television set to watch a game, he remembers. Aggravated tenants on the block stood from the tops of their buildings, hurling garbage at the queue of hopeful-plumbers. Cassano, whose father was a policeman, admits he felt some relief with the officers nearby.
Much like he was able to secure the Manhattan ice cream route, Cassano once again succeeded in joining the union. He puts his time into high rises all over New York, then, in 2002, he was given the opportunity to take a role in ballpark plumbing at Shea Stadium, where he eventually was asked to stay on as foreman.
When the Mets made plans to build Citi Field, Cassano figured his time was up. The city would no longer have a subcontract with the field, meaning he no longer had a job. While the construction of the field was under way, he came across the plumbing blueprints for the new stadium and took them home. “I would lay on my living room floor and try to understand the new building just by looking across the parking lot at the construction of the new field,” Cassano recalls. “I wanted to understand the new building so if I was ever able to get back there, I’d be ahead of the game.”
Sure enough, Cassano was eventually summoned back to the Mets by longtime colleague and boss Sue Lucchi and Venue Services and Operations SVP Mike Landeen. “Sue called me and told me I got the job at Citi Field,” he recalls. “I said I’d be there tomorrow.”
No Challenge Too Large
Peter Cassano has been on the front lines of two of New York City’s most devastating events. He was literally on top of a building on September 11, 2001 and watched as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. He volunteered to go to Ground Zero on the bucket brigade with his partner Kevin Kender. “We didn’t know what else to do, so we just tried to help,” Cassano says. Later, after taking his role on with the New York Mets, Cassano helped oversee the conversion of Citi Field into a hurricane relief center after Hurricane Sandy inflicted massive amounts of damage in 2012.
Since then, Cassano has risen in the organization as a trusted and valued member of the building operations organization. Trading in his uniform for a tie wasn’t without its pain points. By taking on the role of senior director of building operations, which was created specifically for him, Cassano had to leave his longtime union at the age of 52. “Nobody leaves at that age; you’d have to be crazy,” Cassano points out. “But I wasn’t sure I would get the job so of course I said I would do it.” Helen promptly brought him to Macy’s because Cassano didn’t even own a tie.
Along with overseeing all of the trades at Citi Field, Cassano also eventually took over the back of house obligations for all concerts and field events. During the 2013 MLB All Star Game, Cassano had to get two brand new Chevy pickup trucks suspended from cranes and placed in the “batter’s eye” area of the outfield. “It was a huge undertaking early on in my role,” Cassano says. “But it worked out to be awesome.” Cassano even wound up driving the truck down the field to present it to the home run derby winner.
Cassano has a strong awareness that you can’t always get somewhere without a little help. Through almost every story he tells, he emphasizes just how important his wife’s involvement has been. “She’s my backbone; she helped me get on a straighter path,” Cassano says. “If I ever thought things weren’t okay, she’d convince me they would be.”
This supportive behavior has carried through to his own actions as well, as demonstrated by his dynamic with Wieslaw Jankowski of W.J. Mega Contracting Corporation. “Peter was instrumental in helping me get comfortable in the construction industry when I first came to this country,” says Jankowski. “His guidance in construction helped me through a difficult transition into the American workplace.”
As the executive director looks back over a career that defies any idea of a “normal” career progression, Cassano says the best advice he can give is pretty simple. “Nobody likes to be at work on time, not anymore. Be on time. And do whatever is asked of you. Be nice to people.”
With that kind of attitude, you just might have a shot at the Manhattan route.
Alliance Building Services values our relationship with The New York Mets, and we thank Peter Cassano for sharing his talents with our firm. It is our mission to provide the highest quality of professional service to meet the needs of our clients. To learn more about the company, please visit alliance.us.
With a 120-year reputation of unparalleled integrity and service in the electrical field, E-J Electric congratulates Peter Cassano for work as executive director of building operations for the New York Mets. Peter has been an integral asset to the E-J team while doing maintenance work at Citi Field for over 10 years.
Congratulations to Peter Cassano on this well-deserved recognition. We’re proud to work for the New York Mets. RAEL Fire Protection Services is a fourth-generation, full-service fire protection company that has been providing uninterrupted design, installation, inspection, maintenance, testing, and repair services for over 80 years.