Derbert King ultimately chose to make New York City his home.
As a child of the city—born in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—he probably couldn’t have made any other choice. King, 49, is now superintendent at the 47-acre Bellpark Manor Terrace—850 co-op garden apartments—in the Bellerose Manor section of Queens.
“I love this place,” King said. “I love helping people. That’s all I want to do.”
And that’s what he has done for the past 15 years, including the last 11 at Bellpark Manor Terrace.
Now King is part of the 32BJ SEIU bargaining committee responsible for negotiating a new, multi-year contract with the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), an industry association representing most building owners in New York City. The contract covers 30,000 doormen and women, superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, concierges and porters working at apartment buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
The fight, King said, is for workers to maintain what they have, what they’ve built and fought for over the years.
“We are not looking for more than our fair share; we’re just looking for a fair contract,” King said. “The most important thing for me is the healthcare and the cost of living increase. I just want to be able to meet those criteria. It’s important for me to take care of my family.”
“Health care is important to me because I want to make sure that my kids are healthy. Preventive care and early detection is the best medicine.”
King said it is important to keep the focus on what is important, which is remaining a family in the face of all challenges. King, married to Malissa and a father of three beautiful boys, also counts as his family every resident of the 850 apartments where he is super and the five porters and 10 handypersons who work at the complex.
“We’re all a family,” he said.
His father had a great job as a truck driver for Washington Beef while his mother was a home maker. His parents raised four kids together, first in Bed-Stuy then, because “my father wanted more for us,” he picked up and bought a house in Roosevelt, Long Island.
King did his parents proud graduating, then a stint in the service, followed by a dib and dab in this and that before finding his calling. Before the service, his dream was to be an accountant.
“I like numbers,” he said. “Math was one of my good subjects.”
But, working for Pergament Home Center store, first as a sales person, eventually becoming a department head, he found that he also enjoyed fixing things. That is how he found his way into being a superintendent. Joining 32BJ SEIU in 1994 opened a new vista, he said, because of all the new free classes available at the union.
“When they told me the school was free,” King said, “I took all the classes I could take. My father taught me, to take advantage of things like this that are available to you. I took Superintendent 1 & 2, basic carpentry, locksmithing, a green course on weather-stripping, even a blueprinting class. I have certificates in all of that.”
His thirst for education meant that he wants a good education for his kids, which is why the fight for a good contract is important.