By Kathleen Culliton
It was a cold fall morning three years ago when Derbert King ran into an apartment filled with black smoke and carried his neighbor out of the burning building. “As I have him on the ground, asking if he’s all right,” King recalled, “he looks up and says, ‘King, you’re on your knees; where’s the ring?’”
King, 48, is the sort of guy who can appreciate humor in the most serious situations. But he knows that as superintendent of the Bell Park Manor Terrace cooperative development in Bellerose Manor for 10 years, his main job is to keep his residents safe, whether making a daring rescue or keeping an eye on workers who come into the apartments. “A lot of times, contractors take shortcuts. I go in and inspect and make sure everything is done correctly,” he says.
King works hard for everyone in the co-op, but he admits he has favorites. “A few tenants I go above and beyond for.” King’s grandmother lives in a residence where the building porters take good care of her, and he tries to do the same for his elderly tenants. “I try to look at all of them like grandparents,” he said.
“They love him, too,” said Bell Park Manor Terrace general manager Enid Brezil. “He has truly become a good friend of mine.”
King began his career as a temp worker at the Clinton Towers in Manhattan. One evening the general manager, Miriam Valette, caught King working on a paint job past 5 p.m. She reminded King that he would not be paid overtime, but King didn’t want to stop mid-wall. There would be a line where the paint dried. “My mother would always tell me to finish what I start,” he remembers.
When Valette caught him working late three more times, she knew she had found a person she could trust. “He was hungry for work, and he was looking for an opportunity. It was a safe gamble on my part.”
Valette kept promoting him: first to stand-in porter, then full-time porter, then handyman. That last promotion came when she caught King working on the building’s wiring—she didn’t know he could do that. “I owe everything to Miriam,” said King.
Today, at Bell Park Manor Terrace, King heads a maintenance team of 10 handymen and five porters. He loves working with them—and doesn’t shy away from helping them with their problems. “Helping these guys out with their personal lives—I get more joy out of that than anything.”
His biggest challenge is keeping up with the sprawling 850-apartment co-op during winter storms. “Snow removal is hard out here, and I like to be ahead of things,” said King.
Summers, in contrast, are his pleasure. He says he thought Belle Park Manor Terrace was beautiful from the first time he saw it 10 years ago, when he came for an interview. “It took my breath away,” he says.
When the management company offered King the job, he accepted immediately—but with one condition; that he be given the time to marry his wife, Malissa, and take her on her honeymoon. Malissa was as excited to move to Bell Park Manor Terrace as was her husband. “Every parent’s dream is to live in a good school district,” said King.
The Kings have three sons: Dondre, 16, Deonte, 12, and Donovan, 9. Dondre plays football for the Bayside Raiders, and Deonte and Donovan begin little league football in the spring. Donovan takes after his father and wants a set of tools for Christmas.
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