Tales of drunken aides, illicit affairs and Windsor knot lessons
Carlos Cruz doesn"t go anywhere, but he doesn"t need to's the world passes through his doorway.
Tenants in the 455-unit building at 61-15 97th St. Rego Park where he works as a doorman come from Africa, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Russia, Israel and other far-flung places.
Cruz, 48, came to New York City from Puerto Rico at age three. It was his first and only plane ride, a journey he cannot remember. â€œI am afraid to fly, he said.
He and one sister, currently battling cancer, are the only survivors from his childhood family of six. He has a niece and nephew who live in Pennsylvania.
In his 22 years as a doorman, familial-type bonds have grown between Cruz and some of the building tenants. He has been deeply affected by the deaths of old-timers, one elderly woman in particular, and was present for the death of one man right in his lobby.
â€œHe was a married man, Cruz recalled animatedly, â€œhaving an affair. He was nervous. It was terrible.
There have been other sensitive situations to manage, like the aide who abandoned her wheelchair-bound charge when she got drunk and fell in front of the building.
â€œMost of the people here are absolutely wonderful, he laughed, â€œbut some of them are just too much.
â€œCarlos is exceptional, said Fragida Diaz, a tenant for 26 years. â€œHe dresses impeccably. He takes his job very seriously. Tenant and single mom Michelle Gilliam cited the time her 9-year-old son had to wear a tie to his private school, instead of his usual clip-on bow tie.
â€œCarlos showed him how to make a perfect Windsor knot, right in the lobby before school.
He often fields complaints from tenants. He keeps in touch with the super on a two-way radio and is praised for his responsiveness. One time he helped Diaz get into the storage room to get her luggage for a trip. She"d forgotten to retrieve it during the posted hours. â€œYou"d usually get, â€˜I"m sorry, it"s a skeleton crew," you know? she said. But Cruz managed to track someone down. â€œThank God for Carlos! He goes the extra mile to help you.
He is an avid stamp collector. He took to collecting at age five, when he was introduced to it by a neighbor. Today, his collection fills 13 books. The stamps come from friends, family, mail-order services and those tenants from all around the world.
In addition to stamp collecting, Cruz enjoys reading, PBS shows and tending an elderly neighbor"s garden.
â€œHe"s very attuned to women"s needs, to people with disabilities, said Gilliam. â€œHe just treats everyone with the same respect.
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