Frank Bonanno shares a first name with Frank Sinatra—and some residents think that’s not the only similarity they have. Bonanno, 65, has spent the last 27 years as the master of his own stage: 450 E. 63rd St. And his audience is as appreciative as any that Ol’ Blue Eyes entertained.
“He’s a quintessential New York guy,” said Elizabeth Pasmantier, 38, a tenant for more than 10 years. “He does remind me of Frank Sinatra. He always has the perfect joke for any situation and endless stories. He’s a colorful character who puts a smile on your face.”
But it’s not just Bonanno’s big personality that endears him to his Upper East Side tenants. He’s also a natural at the work.
“I really took to the job, and I guess the job took to me,” he said. “I like it and enjoy it very much.”
Bonanno, whose grandparents emigrated to the United States from Italy, grew up on Mulberry Street in traditional Little Italy. His family started a small deli on the corner of Prince and Lafayette streets, which is now dining hotspot Delicatessen.
He moved uptown to East Harlem in 1979 when he married his wife Kathy, 63, and had a daughter, who is now 29. Bonanno took a position as a summer relief worker on East 63rd Street and soon made himself indispensable.
“The fellas there liked my work and asked me if I would stay on and I said, ‘Sure, why not,’” he said.
Bonanno has worked the same 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift, Sunday to Thursday, ever since. He has barely missed a scheduled day’s work in that time, come rain, wind or fire. Bonanno has proved reliable at tackling the last of those things.
Around 10 years ago, one of the three buildings in the complex caught fire. He evacuated the top floors and had begun to quell the flames when firefighters arrived. That was all in the line of duty, according to the modest doorman.
“I did what I had to do and that was it,” Bonanno said. “I got a call from the police department and the officer called me a hero. But I told him, ‘What was I going to do?’ Someone had to do something.”
Others disagree and think that once again Bonanno went beyond expectations.
“He behaved heroically with the fire. He’s a classic kind of guy,” said Francis Barany, 52, a resident in the building since 1985. “Like the neighborhood cop—except you don’t have them anymore in Manhattan—Frank is the neighborhood doorman.”
Barany has raised two daughters in the building, with a little help from Bonanno along the way. The pair used to walk the lobby together as the new father would cradle his now 16-year-old daughter to sleep.
“A lot of people are motivated by money, but not Frank. He’s motivated by doing a good job,” Barany said. “He watched everybody in the neighborhood grow up. It’s very rare to have that.”
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