Celebrating Our Workers

A superintendent who is working to make his building green and energy-efficient, a security officer who stopped a rape in progress and a school custodian who disarmed a gunman are among the winners of the 2013 Building Service Workers Awards, presented by 32BJ SEIU and Straus Media. “We’re extremely proud to honor our brothers and sisters who not only excel in their jobs, but who have become heroes to the people they serve,” 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa said. “Whether literally saving lives or simply making life brighter for the people around them, this year’s winners exemplify the professionalism and dedication of our members.” The awards were presented at a ceremony attended by New York City Council members Letitia James and Gale Brewer and other local elected officials, along with residents in the winners’ buildings, co-workers, family and friends.

Downtown Doorman of the Year: Hurley Jones

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Providing Service and Making People Smile Hurley Jones, a doorman at 270 Broadway as well as 80 Chambers, takes his job very seriously. His job means providing a full service and giving as much of himself as he can to the people in his buildings. What do you like most about your job? “I like dealing with people and making them smile. Sometimes people are not in a good mood and I have a way of cheering them up.” “I do whatever I need to do,” he adds. What do you do when you’re not on the job? “Family definitely comes first.” Jones enjoys spending time with his 16-year-old daughter. He also frequents the gym and tries to stay active within the union, attending union meetings whenever possible. Jones also notes how important his friends are in his life. What issues are most important in the upcoming mayoral election? “The most important issues are homelessness, poverty, healthcare and education.” Jones’s hopes are ambitious and far-reaching. He adds he would also like to see minimum wage raised and a greater focus on the environment and the issues surrounding global warming. “There are a lot of important issues,” offers Jones.

East Side Doorman of the Year: Rudy Gonzalez

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Watching Families Grow Keeps This Doorman Going Rudy Gonzalez has been a doorman at 1040 Park Avenue on the Upper East Side since 1996, and he says one of the most interesting things about his job is watching people go through their own lives. He has seen children born, grow up, go off to college and even start their own families. Being a father himself, Gonzalez finds pleasure in watching these families grow and expand. Gonzalez also takes great pride in serving people and giving off good energy. What’s your favorite part of the job? “I see the reaction when [people] respond and they say ‘thank you’ or ‘you’ve made my day.’” “Making them feel good about themselves makes me feel good,” he adds. What are your hobbies? When Gonzalez is not on the job, he spends time with his five-year-old daughter, often helping her with her homework. He also plays guitar and sings, and enjoys the fellowship of his church, particularly with family. Where are your favorite places in Manhattan? Gonzalez says two places come to mind: “I like Central Park for the unique atmosphere and all the different people there,” he says. “I also like Union Square. I like the restaurants, but also the vibe—it’s very mellow.”

West Side Doorman of the Year: Eugene Amankwah

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Witness to Life Beginnings With a Dash of Humor Eugene Amankwah, a doorman at 372 Central Park West on the Upper West Side, has seen a lot in his many years on the job. He’s been around twice when women from the building were going into labor. Amankwah stepped up to the task, doing whatever he could to make them comfortable. When The West Side Spirit mentions that those experiences could be a bit hair-raising, Amankwah jokes, “If I had hair that would be hair-raising.” What are your hobbies? “I like to write, I’ve written a pilot for a sitcom.” What Amankwah enjoys so much about writing is how, “you get to be creative and articulate.” He also enjoys spending time with his family—his parents and sisters—the most important people in his life. What do you like most about your job? “I feel like I lucked out with the people in this Central Park West building”. “All the people are so down-to-earth there. In a service job, people often act like you’re beneath them, but they don’t treat me like that.” What do you do after work? “After work or during lunch break, I can be found around the neighborhood.” “You can always catch me at TJ Maxx or Crumbs,” he says with a laugh. He doesn’t feel that his work makes him want to race straight home afterward. On winning “Best Doorman of the Year,” Amankwah notes, “I feel amazing. I was in shock when I found out I won.”

Doorwoman of the Year: Ideniz Cintron

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Doorwoman Who Loves Family — Residents’ and Her Own The extraordinarily humble Ideniz Cintron has been a doorwoman at the downtown Riverhouse condominium complex for over five years. What’s the best part of being a doorwoman? “I must say my favorite part of the job is the residents,” says Cintron, adding she enjoys getting to know families personally and watching the children she sees regularly grow up. Who is most important in your life? “My children mean everything to me; they are my world. Nothing can compare to the love between a mother and her children.” Where do you like to spend your time in the City? “I would say I’m a definite Brooklynite.” “Born and raised,” says Cintron of her Brooklyn roots. “I have seen the progression of our towns into very culturally diverse communities.” What are some of your favorite pastimes? “I really enjoy traveling.” In fact, when Our Town Downtown got in touch with Cintron, she was in the process of preparing for a vacation. When she is home in Brooklyn, however, Cintron likes trying new restaurants and attending shows and venues, always with her family.

Building Manager of the Year: John Egan

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A Former Musician Turned Security Expert At 778 Park Avenue, where you can find John Egan working as building manager, things run as smoothly as possible. The things that make Egan great at what he does are fairly basic, but also crucial to keeping a building functioning properly. What are the best parts of your job? “I enjoy meeting people and working out their problems,” says Egan. “Hopefully I will have the answers they need.” Our Town wanted to find out some of the crazier or more interesting things Egan had witnessed in the line of duty, but the beloved building manager remained tight-lipped. “Nothing that interesting has happened at the building,” says Egan, “at least not off the top of my head.” What do you do when you’re not helping people out on the job? “I enjoy going for runs and playing soccer.” Egan says he’s too old for league play, but enjoys training others. Who is most important in your life? “That would be my parents. They gave me the lead in life,” he says. “When I wanted to leave school and become a professional musician, they were always behind me.” He jokes he should probably not publicize that. “No matter my decision, they always gave me the rope,” adds Egan. What concerns do you feel need to be addressed on a city-wide level? “Security, security, security,” says Egan. “We can’t be responsible for so many lives and these large buildings. Security is my top priority.”

Super of the Year: Thomas Clarke

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He Came for A Vacation and Stayed Forty Years Thomas Clarke’s tale of how he got started in New York City is straight out of a film. Forty years ago, Clarke traveled to New York from Ireland with three of his brothers (one of 14 siblings; Clarke’s home was getting a bit crowded.) Clarke was working as a handyman at the time, and the brothers only anticipated staying for a short vacation. Instead, while walking down Park Avenue, a young, shy Clarke popped into a building and asked if he could get any work. Andy, the super at the time, told Clarke he could get started the next day, and Clarke has not looked back since. What are some of the most interesting stories from your building? Clarke, who has been a super at the same building since 1982, jokes some of the building’s more interesting stories he’s not at liberty to share. However, what regularly makes the job most interesting for Clarke is interacting and working with all the people he sees day-in, day-out, helping with any services they may require and looking after them in general. What keeps you going on the job? “It doesn’t matter what type of job you have, it has to be done and [you] just do it.” He also says a job like his depends on a solid workforce. “Without them you would not be a super,” says Clarke of his coworkers and staff. What are some of the hardships you face on the job? “[The boards] change occasionally,” notes Clarke. “The board president could change, and ways of doing the job change and you have to adapt.” “Times change too,” adds Clarke. “In 1982, things were a very different way—this was an easier and quieter job, but life becomes complicated.” Clarke notes another way times have changed for him: “I used to not be able to wait for the day to end, now there’s not enough hours in the day.” How do you spend your free time? “I do a lot of cycling, I ride for charity events like a 30-miler to raise money for multiple sclerosis.” “I had one shareholder who had MS and that’s how I got started [in charity work],” he says, “seeing how she suffered.” What’s your favorite part of New York City? After all these years, Clarke remains particularly fond of the neighborhood he could first truly call home in America. “The Upper East Side is my favorite part of the city,” says Clarke.

Porter of the Year: Marta Davila

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A Family Woman Who’s All About People Marta Davila works as a porter at 700 Washington Street in the Village. What do you like most about your job? “My favorite part of the job is interacting with people and the shareholders I work with.” “This is a people’s job you know,” explains Davila, perhaps surprisingly a woman of few words. Where do you like to spend time in New York City? “That’s tough, but I would say Brooklyn, in general.” What do you do when you can get away from your job? “When I’m not working, I like trying new restaurants, seeing movies and just getting away from the city.” Davila is quick to note the most important people in her life are her parents, her children and her grandchildren.

Window Cleaner of the Year: Steven Castro

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A Window Cleaner Who’s Addicted to Dangling Steven Castro, a window cleaner since 1987, was first scared out of his wits by the job. “I didn’t think I’d last long,” concedes Castro, “but I pushed myself and I became accustomed to it.” Now Castro even finds himself exhilarated by the job. “You get addicted to the high of the job,” he says. “You’ll be working on the side of a building that’s 500 feet in the air and dangling off a cable.” Have you ever had any terrifying moments on the job? “One time my hooks detached and I was dangling from a single hook. Some workers inside the office building I was cleaning managed to pull me in through the window.” “It was more surreal than anything,” says Castro. “I was just thinking, did this really happen?” He adds, “You can plan for it, but in that situation, it just happened and thank god everything worked out and I didn’t get hurt.” What’s the most enjoyable part of the job? “I like all the different people you meet. It’s kind of fun sometimes,” he explains. “You meet regular people, but also people you might not otherwise meet, like the commissioner of the NFL and CEOs.” Castro adds he often receives helpful tips from the various people he meets. What do you do when you’re not dangling off buildings? “I like to spend time with my dog, my kids and at church.” What’s your favorite haunt in New York City? “My first building was 9 W. 57th Street,” he says, nostalgically. “It’s been in so many movies and it’s an awesome building, and you’ve got the park…that’s my favorite area.”

Security Officer of the Year: Abul Basher

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Saving Lives and Building a Sense of Community Abul Basher works as a security officer for the Royalty Realty group, which sends him on jobs throughout the city. What are some of the craziest things you’ve seen on the job? “One morning, in 2010, I found a coworker, Keith, supposedly asleep on the job. Everyone else assumed Keith was simply taking a nap, but I knew better; I was aware Keith was a diabetic and this could be more serious.” “I called, ‘Keith, wake up’ and he did not wake up,” explains Basher, who knew Keith was not one for dramatics. “I called 911, the building manager and the maintenance supervisor.” “When the ambulance came, they said in two more minutes Keith would likely have been dead.” Instead, he recovered fully. What do you enjoy most in your line of work? “I like the sense of community, as well as helping visitors feel at home.” “I enjoy giving the right kind of help or the right answer,” he explains. “I feel satisfied and proud.” What do you do in your free time? “I am connected to so many community activities, I attend many community meetings and rallies.” Basher volunteers with an organization called Sheba, which helps new immigrants adjust to their community. He also helps kids in his neighborhood with math and physics. Basher is affiliated with numerous other organizations, and elected officials that help build a stronger and more tightly knit community. “When I have free time, I use it to help people in the community,” he explains. While he continues to do good work for his community, above all, Basher’s sons are the most important people in his life.

Public School Cleaner: Jesus Ayala

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A Custodian with the Unlikeliest of Hobbies At first glance, Jesus Ayala, with his full bodysuit tattoo, might not appear a likely candidate for a favorite among parents at P.S. 118 on the Upper West Side, but that assumption would be incorrect. In fact, Ayala, who has been a custodian at the school for 13 years, takes great pride in his relationships with students and their families. What do you like most about your job? “I love the parents here,” says Ayala, who takes pleasure in meeting new people. “I love seeing children go from K-8 and then out the door, and getting to know their families.” “All the children with special needs here are super-cool,” he adds. Ayala has also been around to see teachers get married and have children of their own. Unfortunately, Ayala has also witnessed the darker side of things life in the citiy has to offer, from knifings to even deaths. Have you bonded with any students in particular over the years? “I try to be there for all students equally.” What are your passions outside of your job? “I play a lot of volleyball and spend time with my cats.” Ayala, who has three cats himself, helps find homes for strays in need of shelter. He points out he used to foster until he took in his own three who were found in the garbage. “They’re my daughters of nine years,” says Ayala. “They are my kids.” Ayala also enjoys watching people get tattooed or relaxing in front of the TV. “I’m pretty boring and basic,” he jokes. What issues are most important to you? “Cleaners have not had a raise in eight years.” “There have been a lot of changes in the system,” says Ayala. “We’re short employees. We do the work of 20 men with five.” “When they cut our budget, we never gained an employee,” he adds. “We have to keep up our standard, we have a reputation to keep.”

Lower Manhattan Office Cleaner: Cordele Nichols

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An Office Cleaner With a Sense of Adventure Who Works Hard Cordele Nichols has been an office cleaner in lower Manhattan for the past 15 years. Hurricane Sandy immediately pops to mind when Nichols thinks of the most interesting things he’s seen on the job. “We walked to the river and watched it spill over,” recalls Nichols. “Stuff was blowing all around, it was chaotic and pitch black.” “We were stuck at work,” he adds. “It was an adventure.” What do you like most about your job? “Definitely the camaraderie. We’re one good unit,” says Nichols. “One guy I’ve been working with for 15 years, two others for eight years. There’s no man above another, we’re all here to help each other…that’s what makes me get up in the morning.” How do you spend your free time? “I enjoy traveling, something I’ve been getting in to more and more—I just recently got off a cruise.” “I work hard enough,” he says. “I like traveling and trying different restaurants and foods.” Nichols likes to spend time in Midtown and downtown Brooklyn, taking in the restaurants, lounges and nightlife the areas have to offer. Nichols also enjoys spending time with his kids, but says his mother is truly foremost in his heart.

Midtown Office Cleaner: Ana Rodriguez

Ana (“Annie”) Rodriguez is the midtown office cleaner of the year. When we reached out to Annie for her comments on being the recipient of this award, she reported back that she is too busy undergoing treatment for her brain cancer to be interviewed at this time. “I am looking forward to my future,” notes Rodriguez. “We have time to work and time to stop working and relax.” She adds: “This is the time to believe in God and take care my health.” Many jumped at the opportunity to speak about her in her place. We are pleased to award midtown office cleaner to this courageous, optimistic and dearly-loved woman for her service to the community.

Stadium Cleaner of the Year: Mary Rosario

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Celebrity Sightings Excite This Midtown Custodian Mary Rosario is a custodian at Madison Square Garden who takes great pride in her work. “I’m always trying to better myself,” says Rosario, “I lead by example.” Leading by example is something she picked up from one of her sisters. “She is a role model,” notes Rosario. “She has opened my eyes.” What’s the most exciting part of your job? “I’ve seen a little bit of everything. All the celebrities…it’s so exciting.” Among these celebrities are Elton John, Rod Stewart and players for the Knicks and the Rangers. How do you spend your spare time? “I spend time with the union, but one of my favorite things to do is watch movies.” Her favorite movie is The Green Mile. “I love the story and message behind it,” she says. Who is most important in your life? “My family members, including my role model younger sister, my two sons, Jose and Rafael, my fiancé, James, and my six grandchildren.” Who do you think should be our next mayor? Rosario is rooting for Bill de Blasio because he is “family-oriented and supportive of middle- and working-class workers.”

Outer Borough Building Worker of the Year: Steven Cohan

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A Doorman Who Takes His Job Very Seriously Steven Cohan is a doorman who does not take his job lightly. In a typical day on the job—in the building where he’s been working for nearly 13 years—Cohan is responsible for greeting and helping people, dealing with distributing packages and much more. While some might believe the duties of a doorman run the risk of being mundane, Cohan, who loves dealing with all the different people he knows well, is quick to prove that notion wrong. What’s the best thing about your work? “It’s always something different, not just the same thing day after day.” What do you do with your spare time? “I’m active within the union. I’m also involved with the Knights of Pythias [a fraternal organization that devotes itself to friendship, charity and benevolence].” Cohan also enjoys fishing and spending time with his family, including his wife and 10-year-old son Jordan.

Longevity Award: Otis Slaton

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An Assistant Super with a Love of Theatre Otis Slaton has been an assistant super at the same apartment building in Inwood for the past 46 years. Slaton has also been a shop steward with the union for the past 38 years and is a member of the grievance committee. Why have you stuck around your building as long as you have? “I like working with people. I also like that the job was unionized.” “I like what I do,” adds Slaton. “I like repairing things and making sure everything goes smoothly.” What do you do when you’re not working at the building? “I like traveling or seeing whatever stars might be in town. I also like seeing Broadway plays.” Who is most important in your life? “Nobody but Jesus.” While Jesus is most important to Slaton, his wife and children are a close second.

Green Award: Albert Staszkiewicz

A Fixer Who Loves the Outdoors and Staying Green “My job is about fixing things,” notes Albert Staszkiewicz, who has been working in the same E. 80th Street building for 20 years. Those things involve plumbing, electrical problems, leaks and other issues a building might face. Staszkiewicz also performs cleaning and general maintenance to make sure things run smoothly in the apartments. His job involves both “small and big things,” according to Staszkiewicz. How do you stay green on the job? “I ensure efficient and environmentally-friendly light bulbs are used as well as surveying water efficiency, many things that are actually regulated by the city. I also use more natural chemicals.” What do you like about your job? “I like that every day is basically different and you never know what will happen. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes, it’s hectic—that’s what keeps it interesting.” He adds he regularly interacts with many different kinds of people. “I was offered a job as a doorman and I declined because it’s more boring,” he says. “I like to do something with my hands, I don’t want to stand by a door and just open it.” What do you do when you’re not fixing things? “I do outdoor activities, especially in the summer. I like hiking, swimming and climbing.” “That’s my favorite stuff ,” he says, “being outdoors.”

Life Saver Award: Irene Love-Legendre

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A Life Saver Not Fazed by the Most Chilling of Late-night Circumstances Irene Love-Legendre works nightshift security at the Fountain Avenue Landfill in Brooklyn, an area long notorious for being a “body dumping ground.” Is your job scary? “It is scary. A couple years back a bouncer murdered a girl and dumped her body at the site.” “It’s a long strip and it’s very secluded,” she adds. “Cars hang out there and there is a lot of prostitution.” Most recently, 40-year-old Love-Legendre, armed with only a cellphone, stopped a rape in progress while on the job. “I’m always on alert,” she says. “I work alone, at night, and you can’t see anything. The lights are dim and it’s right off the highway…people make a wrong turn and end up there, or are there for the wrong reason and you never know.” Love-Legendre adds a lot of guys like to hang out there in their cars and it’s crossed her mind that, “[she] could be a rape victim herself.” Prior to working the Fountain Avenue Landfill area, Love-Legendre worked security at both the airport and the World Trade Center. Do you enjoy your job? “I love it. It’s overnight so I can focus on my studies.” Love-Legendre is studying social science with ambitions of receiving a degree in public administration. “There is also beautiful scenery by the water; they’re trying to turn it into a park.” Above all, “[she] takes pride in protecting people.” What do you do to unwind? “I’m very athletic, I like any sport. I love basketball, handball, riding my bike, working out…even bowling.”

Life Saver Award: Fred Roldan

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School Custodian Tackles Garbage and Intruder Fred Roldan never had expectations of becoming a hero in his daily life as a custodian at P.S. 45 in Bushwick. One day, however, that changed for Roldan and the entire school. Roldan talks about the day that earned him this year’s Live Saver award. “I was taking out the garbage and when I came back into the building, I saw a man outside who looked agitated,” explains Roldan. “He wanted someone to call him a cab.” As Roldan stood by the building’s entrance, he saw the man begin pacing around and noticed a commotion outside. “The man wanted to go into the building,” and “he was getting really agitated.” Roldan then heard someone outside call out, “He’s in the building!” As the man tried to run further into the school, Roldan stopped him, told him he could not enter the building and that he had to wait. As police started pouring in, the man ran toward the security desk and pulled out a gun. Roldan followed his instincts and threw the man to the floor, disarming him and throwing him up against the wall. Was your son (who is a 7th grader at PS 45) proud of you? “He felt so good about it.” Still, he notes humbly, “There was nothing heroic about it. I was in the right place at the right time, it all happened in three to five seconds.” What do you do when you’re not saving the day? “I like to play baseball with my kids or take them to the park. My wife and four sons are the most important people in my life. “