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Ladies of Liberty: Stacey O’Leary, Controller at Phelps Construction Group

Posted October 14, 2019

In May 2019, the new Statue of Liberty Museum opened on Liberty Island with experience and exhibits by ESI Design. The new museum is part of a $100 million Liberty Island-wide beautification effort that is funded by our clients, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

To celebrate we’re sharing the stories of some of the talented people who have worked for over five years to bring this world-class museum from concept to completion.

In this edition, you’ll hear from Stacy O’Leary, Controller for Phelps Construction Group, who worked on the construction of the new museum. Stacey took on the daunting task of capturing the cost of the massive project, keeping

Stacey O’Leary

her team on budget all the way to the museum’s completion.

Name: Stacey O’Leary
Job Title: Controller, Phelps Construction Group
Years of Experience: 37
Age: 59
Nationality: American with a background of Irish
Education: Associates Degree

What was your first encounter with the Statue of Liberty?

Stacey O’Leary, Phelps Construction Group: I went to the Statue of Liberty as a child, but I have a much deeper appreciation for it as an adult. My father was in World War II and he taught me that we need our allies. The Statue represents the friendship we have with France. Not only is the Statue beautiful, but for me it is very emotional knowing that my grandparents traveled past the Statue of Liberty to get to Ellis Island.

What was your role on the project? What did that mean for you day-to-day?

SO: My responsibilities included billing the project monthly.  Staying on budget was both important and difficult. We had to capture the cost of every barge trip, all the material and labor from the subcontractors, and all the equipment used on the island.  There were many jobs created and all of the employees shared a great feeling of pride for the project.

Stacey visits Liberty Island during the museum’s construction.

You just opened a new museum for the Statue of Liberty — how does that feel? What does that mean to you?

SO: The Museum is a piece of history for my family and future generations to appreciate. It also makes me proud to have been involved with Phelps Construction Group.

Why is having a museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty important?

SO: The Statue of Liberty Museum is so important because it’s all about our ancestry. People are so interested in appreciating where they came from and how their family members traveled to Ellis Island, excited to start a new life in America.

After working on this project, has your concept of liberty evolved?

SO: Being a part of the project has made me appreciate what Liberty is all about — freedom of choice without any limitations.  So many other countries don’t have that sense of freedom and choice.

Do you have a unique/special connection to Lady Liberty?

SO: My Grandparents saw the Statue of Liberty in the 1920s when they came see to Ellis Island from Cork, Ireland.  They were both in their early 20s with just a few dollars on them to make a new life. They stayed with relatives in New York City. What courage they had to travel so far on a ship with only a vision of what life in America would be like.

Since you started your career, what’s the biggest change you have seen in the world of design?

SO: I have not experienced a big change in construction in the accounting field. We rely more on our computers now, but still have to retain many paper documents.

What advice would you give to women who want to follow in your footsteps?

SO: If women are interested in accounting, construction is very interesting and gratifying when you see the finished projects behind all those numbers you work with for many months.

If you were giving a tour of the new museum, what would you make sure to highlight?

SO: The finished Museum was so spectacular — the construction was so impressive, as well as the design and the landscape on the water, but the story within the walls including the movies and artifacts were most meaningful to me. I learned so much more about the historical details and the journey of the Statue of Liberty.

About Phelps Construction Group

Phelps Construction Group, headquartered in Boonton, NJ, provides pre-construction, design-build, and construction management services. The firm has completed a wide range of major commercial, industrial, and institutional projects since its founding in 2007; including The Grammy Museum Experience™ at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.  More recently, the firm completed Hanover Crossroads, a retail plaza in Hanover, NJ containing TJ Maxx/Homegoods, Ulta, and Five Below.

If you have any questions for Stacey, sound off in the comments!

To read the rest of the interview series, click here.

ESI Design

ESI Design is an experience design studio that seamlessly weaves the physical and digital worlds together to create immersive experiences.

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