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Doormen—and increasingly, doorwomen–are arguably the most iconic personalities in New York City real estate, often playing a role that's midway between building security and therapist. They see us at our best and worst (and most shopping-addicted and takeout-dependent), as we venture out on our first dates and first days of school and work (and, too, the last), and are the first people we see when we get home and begin to finally shed the armor we don everyday to do battle out there in this big, brash city.
In this new column, journalist Gabriel Falcon, who's been chronicling his meetups with doormen on Facebook, introduces us to the men and women who are the gatekeepers of many of the city's rental buildings and co-ops.
Today's doorman: Al
The building: 2280 Frederick Douglass Boulevard is among the new fleet of luxury buildings changing the landscape of Harlem. Built in 2010, this high-end 12-story rental and condo tower has 88 units and the usual assortment of name-dropping amenities, such as white Carrera marble, glass mosaic accent tiles, and Sub-Zero fridges.
Years on his feet: 9
Hails from: Harlem (born and raised)
Home: The Bronx
Passion: Cooking (especially bacon!)
In the kitchen:
“Before I was a doorman, I worked as food expeditor. There’s the line cook, the sous chef, and then there’s the expeditor who makes sure everything is good to go. You train like a cook. And I loved cooking. I like to eat!” [Note: In the busy world of fine dining restaurants, there is the front of house (the servers and waitstaff) and the back of house the cooks and chefs. In between these two groups is the expeditor, who communicates orders and information between the front of house and back of house, making sure food is cooked in the right order, quickly, and presented to the customer as beautifully as possible.]
Best part of being a doorman:
“For me, it’s the interaction with the people. I’m a people kind of person. You have to be courteous, helpful. That’s the way my mom brought me up.”
“There are no tough parts to the job but I’ll say this: There’s a difference in the doormen here and the doormen below 110th Street. The doormen down there open the door, and there’s also a concierge. Above 110th, the doormen do it all.”
Way back when:
“I was born and raised in Harlem. I grew up on 124th Street.”
"Harlem has changed for the better. Some people feel their space has been invaded. I don’t think so. It couldn’t continue to go on the way that it was. I didn’t even want to walk down 8th Avenue. Things have changed in so many ways. My family grew up in the Lenox Lounge. It's much better now. And Harlem is for everyone. We welcome everyone. Other parts of the city, parts in Brooklyn, it's not like that. Here, it's for all. Harlem is rising again like the Phoenix.”
“Probably go back down to North Carolina and buy a house.”
Gabriel Falcon began his career as a dancing taco bell on The Dana Carvey Show. He has been a staff writer and producer for Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan and The Today Show. He is currently an executive producer for Al Jazeera. A native New Yorker, he and his family reside in Morningside Heights.