From Diapers to Fixing Toilets

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Rivera has special attachment to the building he supervises

By Gavin Aronsen

Ivan Rivera has lived in the same place for 34 years and is now the building superintendent. That’s as long as he’s been alive.

“I was born and raised in this building,” he said, speaking about his 501 W. 110th St. home.

Rivera was actually born at St. Luke’s Hospital just a few blocks away. But he knows his Upper West Side neighborhood like nowhere else.

His father, Eleuterio, was the supervisor of the 66-unit building for 32 years before him. When Rivera turned 18, he started working for his father as a handyman porter. Six years later his father retired and Rivera inherited his job.

Ivan Rivera is the building superintendent at the same building where his father worked. Photo by Karl Crutchfield

Growing up, Rivera’s parents were separated, so he lived part of the time with his father and the rest with his mother, Maria, at another uptown location. When he was around 13, he started living with his father full-time.

Rivera also grew up with two brothers and two sisters.

Now, Rivera lives at 501 W. 110th St. with his wife and three children. One of his brothers is a handyman, and another is a building superintendent on the Upper East Side. After retiring, Rivera’s father moved to Puerto Rico.

“Even to this day now, I call him every once in a while for advice with the building,” Rivera said about his father.

Rivera is by his own admission a man of few words. When asked about his responsibilities as superintendent, he replied simply that he takes care of the building and its tenants.

Cary Gang is one of those tenants. She has lived in the building for the past 22 years and has fond memories of Rivera.

“When I moved in he was a little kid,” she said.

“He is so many things to so many people, and it comes naturally to him,” Gang said. “He is just a lovely, wonderful, generous human being, and I wish there were thousands more like him.”

In addition to the upkeep work typical of a superintendent job, Gang said, Rivera will often go “above and beyond the job requirement” to help his tenants, and he insists that he not be paid extra for it.

“Most of my tenants have seen me grow up since I was a baby,” Rivera said. “That’s how close of a relationship I have with these tenants. Most of them I’ve known forever.”

Gang described the apartment’s residents as “a microcosm of Manhattan itself,” including people of a wide variety of ages and ethnicities.

“I love every part,” Rivera said. “You know, the tenants, the building. Everything.”

When he’s not working, Rivera said he’s a family man who spends as much time as he can with his wife, Carmen Echevaria, and three children: his sons, 16-year-old Ivan and 4-year-old Giovanni, and 14-year-old daughter Dehaydee.

Rivera doesn’t necessarily see himself handing down his job to any of his children.

“I’d rather see them do something else,” he said. “It’s OK if they want to do it, but I’d rather see them do something else.”

Even so, Rivera is happy to carry on what he calls his “father’s legacy.”

“Everything I know now is because of him,” he said.

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