Rock of Gibraltar

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Plinio Torres grew up in Puerto Rico, where his first job was cutting sugar cane. In 1964, at age 18, he left farm life and moved to New York City, following in the footsteps of his sister and brother. He arrived in May, not a bad month in New York.

“I love it,” he said, “as soon as I see it.”

For 29 years, he has worked as a doorman at 120 E. 36th St. It’s not Park Avenue—although it’s between Park and Lexington—but it might as well be.

“We’re not a Park Avenue building,” said Ann Marie Coleman, the co-op board’s vice president. “But he treats each one of us like we’re millionaires.”

Plinio Torres, who has two grown children of his own, is a favorite among the building’s kids. Photo by Karl Crutchfield

Plinio Torres, who has two grown children of his own, is a favorite among the building’s kids. Photo by Karl Crutchfield

The 62-year-old doorman lives with his wife—“my companion of 17 years”—in The Bronx. Together, they enjoy baseball and Bachata music. Torres has “two beautiful children” ages 37 and 41. One daughter lives in Colorado. The other lives with her husband in Long Island and runs a daycare center. The East Coast daughter has two children: a 4-month-old and an 18-month-old.

Torres usually leaves home around 8 in the morning and arrives plenty early for the beginning of his 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift, so as never to be late.

“He’s as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar,” said resident Jeffrey Zwipft, adding, “Anything you ask him to do, if it’s within the realm of his possibility, he will do.”

Take the mailbox problem. The mailboxes, built in the 1950s, are too small for all the magazines, newspapers and political flyers that come pouring in. But Torres found a solution. He puts a rubber band around each packet of sorted mail and delivers it by hand to each resident’s door after his work shift ends.

“On his own time,” Zwipft emphasized.

“These people are very good,” Torres said, of his home away from home. Although the job is routine, working in the city exposes him to other interesting worlds.

“I like to come, even sometimes I leave [home] early,” he said. “I like the people, they are very nice to me, very professional. That’s the reason I like it here.”

He is a favorite among the building’s children. According to Coleman, a board member’s 6-year-old daughter said she never wanted to leave the building, “because I’m not going to leave Plinio.”

“He is helpful without being asked,” Coleman said. “He knows everything that needs knowing. He has made something of the job that is bigger than the job itself. He is the eyes, the ears and the heart of the building.”

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