Robert A. Rising, owner
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.”