New York-based filmmaker and photographer Dustin Cohen spent all of last year paying monthly visits to 78-year-old Conrad Milster—Pratt's Chief Engineer for the last 57 years, and the man behind the Institute's recently-retired New Year's Eve steam whistle salute. The end result is an eight-minute mini-documentary about Milster's life, entitled Conrad and the Steamplant.

Milster, who now lives on Pratt's campus, was born and raised in Astoria. "I've always maintained that New York is like a wart," he says. "It grows on you." After befriending his high school machine shop teacher, Milster went on a fated visit to Pratt's steamplant in 1958. The then-head engineer offered him a job, and he hasn't looked back.

The same steam engines that Milster used in the '50s, with parts that date back to 1900, are still responsible for providing heat and hot water to the entire campus. Most of the replacement parts have long since gone out of production, so Milster fabricates his own from scratch.

"Milster was very standoffish at first," Cohen admits. "But by the end of our first meeting I realized we'd been talking for hours." Still, it wasn't always easy to track him down. "The only way to get in touch with him is to catch him at his desk at the steamplant," Cohen says. "He doesn't use e-mail, and if he has a phone at home, I've never seen it. His only correspondence is letters that he writes on yellow stationary notepads."

"I'm a person who loves stability," Milster says. In his campus apartment, Milster keeps hundreds of books discarded from the Pratt Library, as well as pressure gages and name plates, which adorn the walls. He explains, "I believe in the Victorian dictate that no inch of wall should be uncovered by something."

Milster's wife passed away four years ago, and he admits that since then, he hasn't gotten out much. But Milster still has the Pratt Cats to keep him company—a dozen strays that have come to the steamplant for food and shelter. Naming them is another one of Milster's talents: there's Little Mama, The Hunter, Teddy, and Art School, to name a few.

As of right now, Milster doesn't have immediate plans to retire. But when he does, Cohen points out, "It will be a game changer."

Milster tends to agree. "When I leave," he says, "A lot of things are going to change. Is anybody going to give a damn about keeping the engines in nice condition? Who's going to take care of the cats when I'm gone? I don't know. I sort of fear for the things which I cherish being threatened."