By Emily Field
Soon after Matt Sanger moved to 518 W. 111th St. with his wife and infant twin daughters, renovations began on the two apartments above their new home. There were fumes and construction noise. German Negron, the building’s superintendent, offered his apartment to the Sanger family for them to use during the day.
“It was a remarkably gracious thing for him to do,” said Sanger, 35, who studies anthropology at Columbia University. “His father was superintendent here before him. He’s remarkably invested in this building and the community as well. It’s not like this is a job; this is a family tradition for him.”
Negron, 55, has been working at 518 W. 111th St. as a superintendent for 26 years. The building is owned by Columbia University and houses faculty and staff, in addition to three student apartments.
“I’ve seen so many kids grow, being born and in their carriages, and then going off to college,” said Negron. “Being here for 26 years, it’s a pretty good accomplishment.”
Negron has received the Building Service Workers of the Year Award for Super of the Year in Manhattan for his work.
As superintendent, Negron is responsible for maintaining the building. His duties include dealing with clogged toilets, leaky ceilings and building maintenance. Tenants can get locked out or stuck in the elevator, which happens about twice a year, he said. Currently Negron takes care of three buildings, and has been filling in as superintendent for one co-worker who passed away Sept. 2.
“The job is a little stressful with the times when they call you at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., when there’s no hot water, no heat, no steam. We’re on call 24/7,” Negron said.
Negron attended Herbert H. Lehman College in the Bronx for two years, but decided to leave school to begin working and support his mother. He worked as an elevator mechanic and installing high-end stereos in cars. His stepfather’s supervisor, who worked at Columbia, recommended that Negron work there. Negron began as a porter at 606 W. 115th St. He took over as superintendent for the building when his father was injured in a fall while cleaning the lobby.
Negron is active in his union, which represents building service workers in New York. He was a shop steward for 18 years, acting as a liaison between Columbia and union members, and served on the grievance board from 2000 to 2006.
Negron has been married to his wife, Emily, since 1988. He has two sons from a previous marriage, Jason, 30, and Jonathan, 29. Their daughter Amanda is studying psychology at William Patterson University in New Jersey, and their younger daughter, Alexis, is a junior in high school.
“My wife is a big part of me. She’s been a big supporter when I’ve had to get out of bed late at night. She’s been a great shoulder, especially when I got custody of my kids,” said Negron. He obtained custody of his sons shortly before he remarried.
“I had the flexibility of being a superintendent, picking them up and dropping them off at school,” said Negron.
One of Negron’s hobbies is working on his classic 1967 Camaro, which he brings to car shows in the summer. He was also a baseball and basketball coach for 15 years.
Negron is also an avid Obama supporter. On his wall, Negron has a framed copy of the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times from the day after Barack Obama was elected president.
“That’s my man! He will win!” he said. Negron has a collection of newspapers from Nov. 5, 2008, including The New York Times, The Daily News and the Columbia Daily Spectator. “I’m keeping these for my grandchildren one day,” he said.
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