Building Service Workers Award Honoree Frank Medley: Cleaning Windows is Not for the Faint of Heart

The views are great, says Frank Medley, who obviously isn't afraid of heights

27 Oct 2019 | 01:52

For Frank Medley, 62, window cleaning is a family business. His father was a window cleaner back before the most common method of cleaning windows was to use scaffolding. “I used to tell him back in the day that he was crazy, you know. He used to hang out the window. If you ever saw the old windows, you hang out on a belt. They have a special window cleaning belt and you actually hang out the window and clean the individual window,” he remembers.

That’s how it was done before most new buildings were made of solid glass. Medley’s father is the one who trained him, and for a while they did things the daredevil way. Clearly, neither of them were afraid of heights. “Like anything, the more you do it the better you get,” he says.

Now, at 485 Lexington Ave., Medley can clean windows from the inside. He’s been working at the building for about five years — he calls it his second home — but has been doing the job for over three decades. He says the tallest building he cleaned was the Metropolitan Tower, at about 83 stories high. “To do a complete cycle to clean that whole building it took almost four months,” he says.

That particular building required about seven scaffolds for the window cleaners. He looked into apartments owned by celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Billy Joel, but wouldn’t admit to seeing anything he shouldn't. He says they were all nice and took care of the workers. Medley has worked at somewhere around 40 or 50 Manhattan skyscrapers, and keeps a photo album of all of them, and the views he could see from his scaffold.

The company Medley works for just got a contract at Hudson Yards, and they also take care of the windows at the Freedom Tower. A few years ago, a scaffold malfunctioned at the Freedom Tower and two workers had to be rescued by police cutting through a window.

Medley calls his window cleaning career “excellent” and is grateful for everything he’s been able to do because of it, like buying a house and raising his kids. Two of his sons are also 32BJ members. Medley lives in the northeast Bronx and enjoys going to City Island to eat seafood and sit by the water. He and his wife love traveling; they recently visited Cancun, Mexico for their anniversary. “It was like heaven on earth,” he says. They’re looking forward to their daughter’s wedding next spring.

“Like anything, the more you do it the better you get." Frank Medley