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Rego Park concierge gets recognition for decades of work

For 22 years, Carlos Cruz has in his job as a doorman in Rego Park been a crime stopper, translator and friend all at once.

He has spent many late nights waiting for tenants of Park Plaza on 97th Street to make sure they arrive home safely from their jobs, and he frequently meets residents at the subway if he is concerned they could get mugged or attacked walking home in the early morning hours. One evening years ago he even chased off a man who had been attacking a female tenant and brought her to safety.

After more than two decades of looking after the building’s 2,000 or so residents, Cruz’s stories are endless. He’s on the frontline of many of the bad — and good — events that occur at Park Plaza, whether it’s calling an ambulance for a man having a seizure in the lobby or finding homes for kittens left in front of his desk.

Cruz’s consistent attentiveness and nonstop support for tenants landed him the Queens Doorman of the Year award last week, a contest for which Cruz received more nominations from tenants than any other doorman in the borough.

“I was very surprised and very happy about it,” Cruz, 49, said. “I’ve never won anything before in my life.”

The union representing doormen and women in New York City, the 32BJ SEIU, gives out the Doormen of the Year awards, given to individuals in each of the boroughs, in an effort to recognize the workers who union officials said go above and beyond job requirements.

“Mr. Cruz received the most amount of nominations out of all the building workers in Queens,” said Kwame Abasi Patterson, a spokesman for the 32BJ SEIU. “He really came out on top.”

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) gave the award to Cruz during a ceremony last week.

“Having been the president of my condominium in Hillcrest for five years, I know the kind of work these guys do,” Lancman said. “It was the doormen who made sure the building was safe and secure. The work these folks do is really, really valuable.”

Cruz, who was born in Puerto Rico and spent much of his life here in Jamaica, has been a doorman for the past 28 years. He was always drawn to the service life — as a child he wanted to be a policeman — and began his career as a doorman at an apartment building on East 60th Street in Manhattan.

The Jamaica resident works a rotating shift — two days in the morning, two in the evening and another midnight shift that runs from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m., during which time he said he has stopped numerous crimes.

“One time a woman was mugged coming home,” Cruz said. “The guy had her by the neck outside, and I stepped outside the building because it was a beautiful night. I looked up the block and saw the man on top of her, so I yelled, ‘Hey,’ and the guy looked at me and went running. I picked up the woman and brought her into the building.”

Cruz also said he would deter crime by waiting outside for a woman who would frequently walk home around 2 in the morning.

“I prevented crime there many times just by coming out of the building because the muggers would follow her from the train station, but they’d leave when they saw me,” Cruz said. “Sometimes I’ll go wait for a woman at the Queens Boulevard subway station and bring her home.”

The Rego Park doorman also spends much of his time helping out many of the immigrants who do not speak English in the building.

“I speak Spanish, and I use my bilingual skills quite often in the building,” Cruz said. “I have a Russian lady, and she doesn’t speak a word of English, but I knew she had a little mouse in her apartment because she came into the lobby and said a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand, but then said, ‘Mickey Mouse.’ I immediately knew what her problem was, so I told the superintendent.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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