West Village doorman Johnny Gonzalez always remembers the needs of others—not just the needs of his own family, but the residents of the Devonshire House, where he has worked since 1996.
Before beginning his doorman job, he worked at an off-Broadway theater, handling security, carpentry, set design and take-down, and even stagehand work—“whatever was theater-involved, except acting,” he said. During his time there, he helped his uncle, who was seeking work, to find a job at the theater. It wasn’t long before his grateful uncle returned the favor.
“It was a low time for him, he had no work—nothing,” Gonzalez said. “I brought him into work with me, and he told me he’ll never forget this, and when he gets back on his feet, he’ll bring me into whatever he’s doing. He kept his word on it, and he became a superintendent, and he brought me into his building.”
With his uncle’s help, Gonzalez landed his current doorman job. He grew up in the West Village, where he often passed by the Devonshire House—28 E. 10th St. “I’ve walked past this building a million times, and I never thought I would work here,” he said.
For Gonzalez, his work at the building is all about effectively handling responsibility.
“It’s not a matter of finding a taxicab or opening doors,” Gonzalez said. “Being a doorman requires being a good advisor, messenger and trying to answer and resolve all calls to tenants.”
It wasn’t long before Gonzalez caught his uncle’s “pay it forward” spirit. When his brother Gilbert was looking for a job, Gonzalez told him that the nearby 40-50 E. 10th St. needed a doorman. Later, Gilbert connected Napoleon, his and Gilbert’s cousin, to a doorman job at the same building. The relatives, working just down the block from each other, often make the time to grab lunch together.
“Family time is always important,” Napoleon said. “Having my cousins around—it means a lot. It’s good and healthy.”
Gonzalez’s family isn’t his only local support system. At the Devonshire House, he credits his fellow staff for helping him to learn the ropes when he got started.
“If it weren’t for them, my job would be a lot harder,” Gonzalez said. “The staff here is great; I mean, we have over a hundred years of experience if you add up the numbers.”
With time, Gonzalez also became a strong teacher.
“I learned most of the things from him, from watching him, how he greets people, how he handles situations,” Gilbert said. “He knows how to handle a lobby. He’s a great director.”
And he doesn’t stop learning. Gonzalez is dedicated to his building’s union, 32BJ, which connects him to frequent courses in building management, carpentry and security, among others. Most recently, he and other union members are spending weekends pounding the pavement from Manhattan to the outer boroughs to Pennsylvania, advocating for President Obama’s reelection. “He’s for the working people, the working families,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez’s influence crosses borough and state lines, but those who recognize and appreciate him the most are right down the street.
“He is a very charming fellow, you could say,” Napoleon said. “He’s almost like the mayor of 10th Street. Everybody knows who he is, from the delivery people to the mailman.”
Tags: Building Workers
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