In case you missed it

'Nothing gets out the smell of affairs,' and other tales from NYC apartment building staff

By Polly Mosendz  | April 12, 2018 - 3:00PM


What does your doorman know about you? Chances are, more than you think. At Manhattan's apartment buildings, doormen, supers, porters, maintenance workers and housekeepers are in on all the gory details, as we recently discovered after speaking with staff at half a dozen buildings across the borough. 

From who's having an affair to the frustrations of the stay-at-home moms, here's what's really happening behind the scenes—and how to avoid getting on the building staff's bad side. 

[Editor's note: This story was first published in 2014.]

(Photo: Tiffany Bailey)

Adultery and household repairs don't mix: "Once, a girl broke the shower head at an apartment she wasn’t supposed to be in. She was cheating on her boyfriend with his friend. She ended up calling the boyfriend to come clean, and called the concierge for me to come fix it. So I’m getting tape around this shower-head, trying to get the right fit on it, and she’s half covered in shampoo getting yelled at in the next room over. That was weird."—Julius, 51, handyman in a West Village building

Doormen are great wing-men: "I work as the nighttime doorman, from 10 at night to 6 in the morning, which is definitely the most fun. We are between NYU, Parsons, and the [School of Visual Arts] dorm... There’s the times when I see the dudes that live here go home with one of those college girls. Sometimes it's an older guy, and that’s not cool, but there’s not much you can do. You just gotta open the door. Though usually when the girl sees it’s a doorman building, she kind of calms down cause it means the dude isn’t a total scumbag. Or at least someone will check for their body [laughs]. No seriously, I think it calms the ladies down to know it’s a full-service building with normal people working here all the time."—Javier, 24, doorman in  a Greenwich Village building

So remember to tip well: "There are some guys that live here who ask me to help them keep track of their 'visitors.' So they’ll step out to work, leave really early in the morning, and the concierge desk takes care of sending up some flowers and a nice breakfast for their lady friend. Some of them tip $50 or $100 when we do something like that, so we are really careful to have it well organized and done politely.”—Anna, 60, concierge in a Financial District building

Your sex dungeon is yours to clean: "There are a lot of tenants in this building who [have] pied-a-terres, and one financial company rented out a chunk of apartments. Those are all just sex dungeons and sad places. None of my girls ever want to clean them, even though the tips are great [and we still have to clean them]. Nothing gets out the smell of affairs."—Jennifer, 33, head of housekeeping in a Financial District building

Breakups hurt us, too: "All the doormen try to learn the girlfriends and boyfriends who live here too. We want them to feel welcome. I get sad sometimes when there are breakups. One dude, he was dating a girl [who lives] here, and he had season tickets to the Jets. We went a couple times. They shoulda kept dating. I love the Jets.”—Javier 

(Photo: Alan Cleaver)

Don't dump stuff down your sink:  “People break all kinds of stuff in their apartments. They break the beams off the ceiling if they can, especially in a rental building. The condos and co-ops aren’t really like that. The most common stuff that breaks is the toilet or the kitchen sink. Same reason: shoving too much stuff that doesn’t belong in it [including condoms]."—Julius 

Stay away from garbage disposals: "A lot of renters try to install garbage disposals and end up breaking the whole plumbing system in the sink. Then I see people trying to plunge out basically a roll of paper towels. That never works."—Julius

(Photo: Pete)

We are not here to babysit you:  “People aren’t really capable of doing anything for themselves. I used to work as a secretary, an executive assistant, then an office manager, and now I lead the concierge desk here. At every job I just dealt with helpless people, but these are the worst. To live here, you pay about $5,000 a month and have to earn 40 times that. So these people are earning a quarter of a million, but if you ask them if they want their shirts starched, you have to explain what a dry cleaner does for a living."—Anna

Or to plan your parties: "My least favorite [residents] are the stay-at-home moms. [The ones who live in the building] don’t do anything for a living to begin with, then call down to the desk to say they need you to plan their kid’s party in the playroom and help pick out invitations and invite a clown. Then it’ll turn out their kid hates clowns, and you’re to blame. It’s walking on eggshells around these people."—Anna  

Leave the trash sorting to the pros: “The worst job of the day is garbage duty. That’s where you always run into the crazies. There’s one lady who patrols the recycling. We get to work at 8 a.m. and she gets to our work at 8 a.m. She waits by the recycling to be sure the guy on duty is sorting it right. Then, if he accidentally drops a newspaper into the cardboard pile, or a plastic bottle into the can pile, she’s watching. And she goes and gets me and starts screaming about trees. But she’s on the board so we can’t stop her. We just have to mix up whoever is on garbage duty so no one has to deal with her too much.”—Raphael, 42, super in a Greenwich Village building

Sometimes, we're here to teach: "When I first started here, I was a maid and had one tenant who scheduled a whole week of cleanings, two hours every day, which is very unusual. She had hired a few of the maids to teach her to clean. We went and bought all of the supplies, then went through all of the details of how to keep a home with her. She never hired us again."—Jennifer

We don't want to use your cleaning products: "There are all of the nut-jobs who obsess over our cleaning products. Look, trees and nature are great, but this is Manhattan. There isn’t any nature here to begin with. And I don’t care what anyone tells me, nothing cleans as well as bleach, certainly not something you purchased from Whole Foods. Some of these people insist we clean with their products, then complain when it isn’t spotless. Well, when you clean with lemon water, what do you expect?"—Jennifer

(Photo: tanakawho)

We know when your kids break the rules:  "Mostly I find out when kids are using their parents' houses in the Hamptons without their permission. I’ll get a request to get a car for someone, but then their son or daughter comes down and three of their friends are in the lobby waiting. If it’s a kid I like, I’m pretty cool about it. I was in high school once, too, and if my family had a nice house out East, I would’ve done the same thing. But with some of the kids, I can tell when their friends are just pushing them into it and I’ve stepped in twice."—Hugo, 24, porter in a Columbus Circle building

"There are plenty of tenants that use all of the services—laundry, dry cleaning and maid service—all the time and they’re penciled into the schedule, but when someone randomly calls up, that tends to be a sign that it’s something odd going on in the apartment. A lot of the random and sudden requests we get are from kids that had parties in their family’s apartments, and they need help keeping up. I’m a mom and would go nuts if my kids did that, but that’s not my job to ask about. They always pay in cash too, so the charge isn’t billed through the management company and won’t be on their monthly fee bill."—Jennifer

And sometimes, we're their friends: "People don’t realize how much kids get left alone in the city.  A lot of the kids that live in this building go to boarding school, so they don’t even know anyone when they get back here. I’m friendly and around their age, so I end up entertaining some of the college and high school kids. It’s great for me because then their parents don’t ask me to lug around their super heavy stuff and don’t get mad if our luggage carts are being used by someone else when they ask."—Hugo



Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.