In 1985, a young man followed his uncle from South Carolina to New York to learn the family trade. The youngest of nine-and the only one to fly the coop-he soon proved to be a gifted carpenter. Today, Alonzo Toney, 47, takes care of the floors in all 1,844 units at North Shore Towers, an upscale residential complex in Queens.
Mike Byrd, the construction foreman at North Shore Towers, called Toney an indispensable worker. “Al’s the only one who can do the hardwood floor refinishing. He never hesitates to do what he’s asked. He’s on time and he does what he’s supposed to do,” Byrd said. “He is one of the best guys I have in the shop.”
Toney said that many of North Shore’s residents spend the winter months in Florida, a habit that has earned them the nickname “snowbirds” from the building staff. So the busiest time of year for him is spring and summer, when the birds return to their nests and start redecorating.
What is particularly challenging, Toney said, is the fact that no two units are alike throughout the three buildings. “Every apartment is different, because different people have different tastes,” he explained. “And you always have different types of floors.”
Not only are there parquet floors and plank floors but there are also nine-by-nine parquet floors, 12-by-12 parquet floors, five-inch plank floors and three-inch plank floors. Some may be stained pickled oak, others puritan pine.
Toney handles them all. He installs them, repairs them, sands them and seals them. When he’s done, he likes to see the tenants pleased with his effort. “If they had a leak or water damage, I come in and fix it and make it neat and clean,” he said. “The finished work makes me happy, knowing that when I leave, they’re happy.”
That he has been able to keep North Shore’s residents content for more than 17 years is an impressive feat, said his wife, Dianne. “That is a long time, because you don’t find people that last that long anymore,” she said. “He worked very hard from day one. He likes the firm and he likes the job.”
Indeed, he likes his work so much that even when he gets home, he doesn’t drop his tools. “My wife says, ‘Your house should be the model,'” he explained. “So I do a lot of work around the house.”
When the father of six isn’t hammering and sawing, he loves to cook; juicy steaks hot off the grill are his specialty. He is also a deacon at Brownsville Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where every Sunday he tends a different flock entirely.
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