Building Service Workers Award Honoree Pedro Saenz: A Downtown Porter Dreams Of Travel

Pedro Saenz, Porter of the Year, has seen it all — and still wants more

| 17 Oct 2022 | 02:39

For the past 34 years, Pedro Saenz has worked as a porter at 250 Vesey Street, formerly Four World Financial Center. It’s a job he settled into only two years after moving to the U.S. from his home country of Honduras, launching into an entirely fresh chapter of life.

“You come here not knowing what to expect,” he said. “It was a new country, a new language.”

Now, he hopes to retire in a few years — and travel again to unfamiliar places. “Can you imagine? Getting to know places and new food, new people, getting to meet a new culture,” Saenz said. He dreams of finding a small town in Europe where he can settle down.

The 34-story building where he’s long worked is nestled in a destination of its own, steps from where the Twin Towers once stood and where the new One World Trade Center currently dominates the skyline. Now part of the Brookfield Place complex, 250 Vesey Street has been home to financial giants like Merrill Lynch and Jane Street Capital.

As a porter, Saenz collects recycling and trash at the building’s loading dock. It’s a demanding — and often underappreciated — duty with tough hours; Saenz’s shifts run from 7 p.m. to just after 2 a.m.

“We do this job. We deserve some respect,” he said. “We’re humans, right?”

Years into his tenure at the downtown building, Saenz’s job changed in an instant. On September 11, 2001, Saenz, who now lives in Brooklyn, was returning to the city from an end-of-summer vacation. He’d intended to report for his shift later that evening — and instead worked for several months at a different building before being able to return.

“With the smell and everything, I’m lucky that I didn’t get sick,” he said of the fallout from the 9/11 attack.

Over the past few years, COVID-19 changed the landscape yet again, in different ways. Saenz worked every other week when pandemic precautions and fears were still novel and when offices were mostly empty. “It was quiet,” he recalled.

Now, some days in the building are bustling. Other times, it feels more sparsely populated, as people turn to remote work in lieu of trekking into the office.

When Saenz isn’t working, he stays on his feet. He’s an avid dancer, attending parties with friends. “We’re Spanish, so we’re kind of loud,” he said. Also a soccer fan, he’ll be rooting for Brazil and team USA in the upcoming World Cup.

Saenz is part of a big family, with four brothers in New York, a sister in Pennsylvania, a brother in Tampa, Florida and two more brothers back home in Honduras. Soon, he might add a new country to the list of places to call home. “It could happen,” he said.

“We do this job, but we deserve some respect.” Pedro Saenz, Porter of the Year