914INC. Westchester Magazine Sixth Annual Small Business Awards

Robert A. Rising, Owner

Robert A. Rising, Owner

Yonkers and Hartsdale • Outstanding Minority-Owned Business

When Robert A. Rising, aka “The Black Lumberjack,” realized he couldn’t find his dream furniture locally, he decided to build it himself. By 2004, the Mount Vernon resident’s passion project flourished into a unique business: NYCitySlab, a custom-woodworking company that mills lumber and creates furniture from more than 25 species of reclaimed local wood. The operation has grown to include a shop in Yonkers and a lumberyard in Hartsdale, employing eight workers.

Rising won’t fell a tree just for profit and only collects trees that are old, dangerous, or otherwise need to come down for natural reasons. The lumber is air-dried for one year per inch of thickness, finished in a kiln, and presented to customers to choose the perfect wood for their projects. Rising’s eco-friendly handiwork earned him a spot as one of 10 “makers” honored at the 2016 Martha Stewart American Made Summit.

NYCitySlab’s latest projects focus on public and community spaces, including turning cleared trees from the Sarah Lawrence College campus into 35 tables for its new Barbara Walters Campus Center and furnishing the Roberto Clemente Plaza in the Bronx with 86 benches made of Westchester wood.

Rising is particularly fond of projects that have a personal touch. “People call me to take down a tree that’s been in their yard for years, one that’s sentimental, and I get to put it right back in their house as something new,” he says. “I’m taking something that would be discarded and turning it into something that has value.”

Made to Order

We've just delivered over 900 sq. ft. of beautiful Yellow Pine flooring (tongue and groove) and custom stair treads to a residence on the upper east side.  When the renovations are completed in this lovely townhouse, we're sure the floors will be a conversation piece.

Give us a call.  We can customize beautiful flooring for you as well!

Talk About Recycling

We're all for re-using, re-claiming, re-purposing and recycling.  We have a great client who has been renovating her 19th century Brooklyn home for over a year now.  She first came to us for a live edge Walnut slab headboard with built-in side tables.  While working on her headboard, she asked us about flooring. Her idea was to use salvaged white pine sub-flooring from the house as main flooring and supplement with other white pine boards where needed.  Sounded great to us and we had just the white pine to mill for her, our old growth white pine from Second Avenue (see reclaimed wood page for background info).  The white pine, like so many Manhattanites, was about to make the exodus to Brooklyn.

Sometimes good ideas need a little tweaking, a bit of creativity.  Turns out that the usable amount of sub flooring was less than originally thought and it was too thin.  Not too thin for sub flooring but too thin for main flooring that would see a lot of foot traffic.  We offered to mill as much of our Second Avenue pine as needed and we'd take the sub flooring.  A workable idea for all of us. 

The sub flooring sat in our workshop for weeks, all 101 boards. They sat on dollies in a corner of the shop looking a little worse for wear until we ran them through the planer, but we knew we'd have an opportunity to use them.

Enter one slick, fast-talking midtown Manhattan gym owner with a short lead-time, and budget- challenging reno project. One of the things he wanted was reclaimed wood wall paneling.  And we had just the right stuff.  So we cleaned those boards up, white and gray washed some and left others unstained and got to work.  If we do say so ourselves, the subflooring which turned into wall paneling looks pretty great.

Meanwhile, we were able to provide our Brooklyn homeowner with beautiful period flooring that just needed some TLC.  In our book, the results are beautiful all around.


So whether you need custom paneling or flooring, give us call.  We may even feature your project on our blog.

We're Back!

Not that we ever left, but after almost two months of incredible challenges, it finally feels like we're back to what we do best.  Life has been busy, and it's getting busier, but it beats the alternative!

Bent But Not Broken

While we recently posted information on the devastating fire at 222 Lake Avenue on our social media, we have not fully addressed the situation in this blog.  What follows is our account of what has transpired in the last several days.

On Monday, January 30, at 4:00 AM, a 4-alarm fire broke out on the third floor of 222 Lake Avenue, Yonkers, NY which is where our workshop is located.  Eighty firefighters from 18 companies battled the fire.  The fire, which completely destroyed the third and fourth floors in the northwest side of the building, burned for several hours.  Gratefully, no deaths or major injuries were reported, although some firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

Our shop, located on the ground floor, had no direct fire damage, but we have plenty of water damage, which can be just as harmful.  Trouble comes in threes and we have not been spared - the building was hit with 1200 gallons a minute of water for several hours, all of which rained down on the lower floors.  

On Tuesday we were briefly escorted into our workshop by the Yonkers Fire Department.  It was dark, cold and water was dripping from everywhere.  At that point there was about four inches of water in the shop.  In our shock, we grabbed nothing to take with us.  All we remember doing was picking up what we could from the floor and setting it on higher ground. We were totally disoriented.  The fire department could not say when we'd be able to get in to start cleaning up.  Needless to say we were absolutely dismayed.  Outside the building were a whole slew of people - other tenants, police, firefighters, fire chief, building adjuster, City of Yonkers personnel, department of buildings inspector, industrial cleaning crews, engineers, media, etc. We started contacting people about our situation.  Clients, insurance brokers, utilities, mom, dad, friends, everyone we could think of that had any association with us.  We immediately put feelers out for new space as it was evident that none of us would be able to return to 222 Lake Avenue.  Looking for space can be particularly stressful when you are under enormous pressure like we are. No space to work in = no revenue.  

While trying to sort ourselves out and naively thinking that 4 inches of water would be pumped out rather quickly, we found out on Wednesday that plumbers, who may have been testing the sprinkler system that did not work during the fire, broke a valve that literally opened the floodgates.  Our shop was now in about 4 feet of water and they had not been able to shut off the water.  It seems that buildings as old as 222, which was built in 1890, originally had their own water lines that were not connected to the Yonkers lines, so the big guns had to be called in to dig a hole to get to the water line to shut it off. 

Thursday dawned and we optimistically returned to the burned out building just as we had done everyday.  We were heartened to see water coming out of the building, thinking we were finally being pumped out.  Alas, it was not to be.  Water was being drained all right, but from the first floor.  The water that had been flooding our space had not been shut off.  Not much info available on when we might be able to assess our damage.  The fire department was trying to allay our fears but things were looking pretty grim.  In the meantime, we had been to see several spaces, most of which would not work for us. Too small, too big, too expensive, not in an industrial zone, too short a lease, too expensive to be brought up to code, etc.  Advertised spaces that seemed promising were usually taken when we called.  Every "space available" sign we came upon we called.  Every night we're exhausted.  One or the other is dismayed. Sometimes we both are.  But everyday we wake up, thank the man upstairs for another day and start all over again.

Friday began with our usual optimism and this time we were not totally disappointed.  The water that had by now been pouring in our workshop had been stopped.  But we still did not know when we'd be allowed in our workshop and neither did the fire department. Our enthusiasm on Friday was dampened on Monday when we found out that over the weekend pipes froze and burst and another foot of water poured into the shop.  By this time we have been asking ourselves, "will this misery ever end????"

During all this sturm und drang, we're still open for business.  We're working out of our home, Starbucks, our yard, wherever we happen to be when that call or email comes in about a project.  We're fully committed to completing all the projects that were on our docket prior to the fire.  To that end, we have set up a makeshift shop where we have our yard.  Not all of our tools and equipment are at hand but we're managing.  Conditions are a little rough but we come from a tough stock and will make do until we find a new shop to hang our tools. 

Yesterday morning we were told that there would be no access to the building until an engineer deems it safe to go in.  While it was certainly frustrating to us, we understand that after a fire like that in such an old building, safety has to be the number one issue.  We went to the fire department to get the fire report and pleaded with them to let us go in to get some of our materials and tools.  They gave us exactly a half hour and escorted us and even helped us move some things out.  We are eternally grateful to the Yonkers Fire Department for their help. They will  again assist us when the time comes for us to get all our paraphernalia out of that space.

We are also so grateful to all the people who have contacted us to help - friends, family, neighbors, clients.  We're especially humbled and touched by all the strangers who have reached out to us after seeing our Instagram and FB posts.  People have offered a day of help when moving out our stuff, which we will need to take them up on.  Others have been offering us legal, real estate and insurance advise, all of which we are heeding.  Most important, people who have suffered the same fate have been reaching out to us about their experiences and their advice on how best to move upward and onwards.  All are welcome!

We feel encouraged and empowered and looking to build a better and more productive work environment.

Adversity introduces a man to himself.

-Albert Einstein

NYCitySlab LLC







History Lesson

How Yonkers Got Its Name

This past week we posted some interesting historical "goings on" in Yonkers in the 20th century, which were fun to research.  Yonkers has a rich and varied history and one that is filled with quite a few firsts.   Here now, we give you some historical information on the city that NYCitySlab calls home.

The first residents of the City of Yonkers were Native Americans of the Algonquin, Mohegan and Manhattes tribes.  Napperckamack, the name of their village (which means rapid water settlement) was where the Neperah stream, which is the present day Saw Mill River, flowed into the Hudson or Shatemuck River.

In 1609, the Dutch West India Company sponsored Henry Hudson's expedition up the waterway which now bears his name, to find a new sailing route to India.  His discovery led to fur trading with the Indians at various points along the river.

Under Dutch rule, the purchase of lands became quite a business.  Twenty years after Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for the grand sum of $24, Adriaen Van der Donck received a land grant from the Dutch West India Company.  In addition to being the first lawyer in the Dutch colony, Van der Donck was a leader in the political life of New Amsterdam (modern New York City), and an activist for Dutch-style republican government in the Dutch West India Company-run trading post.  

As the area's patron and as dictated by Dutch law, Van der Donck bought the land from the Indian Sachem of the Keskeskick in the late 1640's and named it Colen-Donck (Donck Colony). He built one of the first saw mills in the the New World on De Zaag Kill, or the Saw Mill River, in 1649. Van der Donck was referred to as De Jonkheer, "young gentleman" or "young nobleman".  De Jonkheer evolved through several changes to The Younckers, The Yonkers and finally to present day Yonkers.

            Adriaen Van der Donck

            Adriaen Van der Donck

Yard Sightings

Not only are there different varieties of wood and mushrooms at the yard, but there are also interesting plants to be found.  Below are just two recently spotted.  Thanks to Nadine for identification and info on uses.


Mullein - leaf and flower teas have been used for hundreds of years to treat respiratory ailments.


Sweet Annie - known by its sweet, lingering fragrance, it has been used in China since the 7th century to treat malaria and fever.  Western herbalists use it in the treatment of diarrhea, indigestion and certain bacterial diseases.

Kick-A** Coffee Table

Just finished this stained Yellow Pine coffee table last night in time for the Flea this weekend.  Come check it out, or better yet, take it home with you.

Walnut stained, Yellow Pine, roundish/ovalish coffee table.  Middle board, which is in various stages of distress, gives this table an aged look and great character.  Funky, hand-made, blackened steel legs complete the look. 

Walnut stained, Yellow Pine, roundish/ovalish coffee table.  Middle board, which is in various stages of distress, gives this table an aged look and great character.  Funky, hand-made, blackened steel legs complete the look. 

Almost forgot, there are two butterflies featured in this table.  One large and...

Almost forgot, there are two butterflies featured in this table.  One large and...

and one not so large.

and one not so large.