Building Service Workers Award Honoree Crystalann Johnson: ‘Why Can’t Girls Open The Door?’

Doorwoman of the Year Crystalann Johnson is a “people person” — and is part of a changing tide

| 17 Oct 2022 | 02:46

The uniform of a “doorman” has traditionally been sported by just that: a man. But times are changing — and doorwoman Crystalann Johnson is leading a new wave.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with women opening the door, because we do a better job anyway,” said Johnson, the first woman to man the door at Silver Towers, an apartment complex in Hell’s Kitchen.

Since starting work there six years ago, Johnson’s role expanded to include caring for residents of not one but three buildings, helping with everything from package deliveries to tenant complaints.

As a “people person,” Johnson is well suited for the role. “Even when they’re upset,” she said of her buildings’ tenants, “I try to cheer them up.”

Some bonds are especially strong. During her first year on the job, Johnson gifted a photo she’d shot of the White House in Washington, D.C. — off the job, photography is one of her hobbies — to a tenant who framed it to hang above his fireplace. Some, she explained, teach her more about the city she calls home, cluing her in to attractions like the nearby High Line and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In other cases, it’s a farther-reaching cultural exchange. Tenants hail from all over the world, according to Johnson, and some who raised their children at Silver Towers bring them back, years later, for visits.

Johnson’s own family lives dispersed across the globe, from England to Trinidad — and stays connected via a large group chat. “They have been my biggest support system,” she said.

Johnson’s work, after all, isn’t without challenges — one of the biggest, Johnson said, is the unexpected deaths of tenants. “You feel a level of connection and it breaks your heart to know that I was literally just having a conversation with this person and they passed away,” she said.

Being a woman in her field comes with hurdles, too. Some men, she said, are uncomfortable with Johnson holding building or car doors for them. “They would hit my hand,” she said. “They feel offended if I’m opening the door.”

“Why can’t girls open the door?” she recalled wondering in her early days as a concierge. Now, she’s noticed more women being hired for the job at Silver Towers and other nearby apartment complexes, like Sky and River Place.

Being a trendsetter isn’t unfamiliar to Johnson, who also runs her own online boutique, with her younger sister. Sometimes, fashion goes hand in hand with pushing boundaries as a doorwoman. “You’re doing a good job — and you look better with the hat” than some doormen, Johnson said she’s been told, in reference to the classic getup.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with women opening the door, because we do a better job anyway.” Crystalann Johnson