4 Generations of Building Bridges

Circa 1900, my mother’s family. Grandma Gokey’s father owned Syracuse Steel and Engineering. Here’s a great photo of my great grandfather with his construction crew. He engineered, manufactured and built the steel bridges across the Erie Canal in New York.
Hard to imagine the magnitude of this operation. Manufacturing steel, securing government contracts, engineering these structures, creating temporary dams for each of the 18 bridges, building the structures, managing the business and being on site with workers. This work was done without phones, computers, faxes, overnight mail service, fast food, cars, etc. This was before there were trucks and highways. He literally built the infrastructure that fostered the growth of towns and cities.
I recall my grandmother talking about her father as if he was a normal guy. She was a pilot in the 1950’s, and a partner in my grandfather’s business called “CITY GAS” – the company that brought natural gas to Florida in the mid-1900’s. My mother was a champion in everything she accomplished – Real Estate, mortgages, development, catering, home and commercial design, and an unbelievable cook. The thing I remember about her most is she never compromised her values. She had more integrity than anybody I know.


Bellaire Estates Developer: Aryeh Rifkin

While living in Tiburon in 2004, I noticed the genetic potential of the prestigious Bellaire subdivision.  I felt the superior location and large buildable lots deserved a complete redesign, and with 181 total properties I saw tremendous potential.  After arranging the financing, I quickly purchased and started construction on the first 5 properties. Acquisition costs ranged from $750,000 to $1,050,000.  Improvement costs ranged from $400,000 to $600,000 and the final values ranged from $1.5 Million to $1.8 Million.  The homes were a huge hit, and our first open house received an unprecedented 450 visitors.
I handled every aspect of this project from vision, acquisition, permits, construction management, finishes, staging, and marketing.  I personally designed, submitted and obtained approval for each design review and building permit.  Known to be one of the strictest building departments, my construction drawings usually passed first review.
The project came to an abrupt halt when the Real Estate crash of 2008 caused property values to drastically decline and there was no financing available to potential buyers.