New York, NY – On Wednesday, November 6th, the 13th Annual Building Service Worker Awards were presented at the 32BJ SEIU Headquarters in downtown Manhattan. The city’s best doormen, supers, security guards, cleaners and porters were celebrated, and speakers and attendees included 32 BJ President Kyle Bragg and 32BJ officers, Assembly Members Dick Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, State Senators Brian Benjamin and Roxanne Persaud, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The event recognizes workers for their dedication to keep offices, schools, public buildings and airports safe, clean and efficient. Winners were selected from nominations by co-workers, employers, building residents, and friends.
The 21 honored were Hector Alvarez, Commercial Security Guard of the Year; Dayshon Beeks, Airport Worker of the Year: Newark; Andrea Bundy, Airport Worker of the Year, JFK; Abdul Quddus Chaudhry, Airport Worker of the Year: LaGuardia; Christina Cintron, Doorwoman of the Year; Ed Clark, Building Manager of the Year; Juan Garcia, School Cleaner of the Year; Nelson Garcia, Doorman of the Year: East Side; Carmen Cecillio Hernandez, Downtown Office Cleaner of the Year; Jose Ilarraza, School Handyperson of the Year; Clementine James, City Building Security Guard of the Year: The Idrissa Camara Award; Jeffrey Matthews, Porter of the Year; Frank Medley, Window Cleaner of the Year; Perry Mercado, Life Saver Award; Hamid Mouhcine, Doorman of the Year: Downtown; Saul Otalvaro, Outer Borough Residential Worker of the Year; Troy Parker, Super of the Year; Jean Rosa, Theater Cleaner of the Year; Frank Smith, Doorman of the Year: West Side; Anna Urban, Longevity Award; and Maria Vargas, Midtown Office Cleaner of the Year.
Eighty-one-year-old Longevity Award recipient Anna Urban has spent her entire 32-year career working at the Empire State Building. She cleans several showrooms there, sweeps kitchens and vacuums rugs. All that has changed in her long tenure has been the floors that she works on. A native of Poland, she has had some difficult times, including the loss of her son a few years ago. But her job, and co-workers, have brought her comfort. When her son died, they wrote cards and notes to her. Of the building, she says, “This is like my home.”
Downtown Office Cleaner of the Year Carmen Cecilio Hernandez had a job working at the World Trade Center at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – but she was on vacation. Her brother, a manager at Euro Brokers, was not so lucky. He lost his life, but despite that, when she was called to help clean up debris at the site, she went in. “It was really hard,” she said. Her mother had also worked with her, and the loss of the brother and son made the task even harder. “It was too hard to be around here, but I had to do it.” Hernandez had a family to support, and says “[my brother] gave me the strength.” She went to work at Century 21, 25 Church Street, and then 200 Vesey Street, where she’s been ever since.
Perry Mercado, Life Saver of the Year Award, likewise stands out for his courage. He works as a security guard at the Human Resources Administration building in Brooklyn, and one day “a guy came in here with a mask and a gun in his bag…one of the clients saw him and informed me.” In a situation fraught with potential danger, Mercado kept his cool, “informed my base and HRA and they took it from there.” The danger was heightened since it was a young boy who pointed out the man had a gun initially. It turned out the man was a prior convict who had done previous robberies with a mask and a gun. He was caught and taken to court. Mercado would like to move up the ladder as an HRA police officer, or a peace officer, and eventually guard armored trucks. He’s been in security for five years, and even previously won an award for stopping someone from robbing a store where he used to work.
The awards are organized by 32BJ and Straus News, which publishes 17 local weekly newspapers and associated websites in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.