Matt Gelbke, Star of “Iron Men,” Literally On Top of 4 World Trade Center
Daniel Edward Rosen Sept. 11, 2012, 7:30 a.m.
Before tenants can set foot inside the new World Trade Center, the men and women behind the development’s massive and ambitious construction have to place the iron, sometimes at staggering, dangerous heights. Local 40 Ironworker Matt Gelbke, who works as a connector for DCM, has helped turn Tower 4 into a 977-foot standing structure. It is a job that is risky and interesting enough for The Weather Channel to feature the building’s construction on the network’s reality show “Iron Men.” Mr. Gelbke, 27, spoke with The Commercial Observer about working at great heights while a camera crew films his every move.
The Commercial Observer: How did the show come about, and how did you guys get picked to have a camera crew follow you around?
Mr. Gelbke: It’s actually kind of a funny story. When Pipeline39 [the producers of “Iron Men”] started coming around and filming, we weren’t really that keen on it. We were actually kind of standoffish. That’s why the first two episodes are mostly [about] the other raising gang, because there are two cranes.
But for whatever reason, I don’t know if they wooed us over and we just kind of fell for it or whatever, but we ended up cooperating eventually. I don’t know what made them come to our raising gang more than the other, they wound up just following us a lot more. Maybe because me and my former partner Jesse [Rice], we were just fun. We joked around a lot, we had a lot of fun at work.
Is it weird to be on camera as you are working on one of the biggest developments in New York City history?
A little bit, yeah. The job is dangerous as is, with no other factors involved. Now you have camera crew following around, and they can be a little invasive at times, and I understand that’s their job. But it’s a risk factor for us, because if something happens, we have to worry about them now. Everything we do, we have to worry about them.
You have to make sure that they are not in a position where they can be injured, if a piece of iron swings, or if the wind catches it, something like that.
The first couple of weeks when the camera was around, it was little distracting. But after a while, it became second nature. It wasn’t that bad.
Have you been noticed on the streets since the show has been airing?
Not on the street. On the job site and Facebook now.
Do you have a history with the World Trade Center?
This will be my third year of ironworking. Tower 4 has been my first and only job. I started my apprenticeship and I was sent to Tower 4 right at the beginning, right when the first few pieces of iron were set. I’ve been there through the whole thing.
Working on the new World Trade Center is your first job—and don’t mind us saying, a heckuva first job to have—in construction. Are you aware of the significance and the history of working at WTC?
Absolutely. I knew when I was sent out here that first day, I knew what I was getting into. I knew how high-profile it was and the overall significance of the job. You’re rebuilding the skyline of New York. It’s a big deal. It means a lot to a lot of people. It means a lot to me, too.