He Jumps When There’s a Problem

Joel Valdez is recognized as Porter of the Year at the 2021 Building Service Worker Awards.

| 29 Apr 2021 | 02:55

Porter of the Year Joel Valdez is known for his ability to make any mess disappear at 12 East 86th Street.

“Like a firefighter, we jump” when there is a problem, like a leak in one of the units, said Valdez. “We clean, and we get the apartment to look like nothing happened.”

Joel says making his residents happy – and seeing their relief after he cleans up a mess – is the best part of the job.

On top of making disasters disappear, Valdez also sanitizes the building’s common areas and cleans units in between tenants. He does “a little bit of everything,” covering for the doorman or concierge when needed, and assisting with repairs.

After his father died, Joel moved from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey for a fresh start – and to be closer to his mother and sister. He was 24 years old and working at a bodega when a friend introduced him to the union job.

Initially, he was just coving summer vacations. But within a few months, Valdez was offered a full time porter position and jumped at the opportunity. He has worked at 12 East 86th Street since 2012.

“It’s a very nice place to work. The tenants, the workers, we’re like a family here,” he said.

He has learned a lot over the years, and takes his skills home at the end of the day to fix things around the house.

Valdez says his family inspires him most. “My family, I have to get up and do it for them. I want them to get the opportunity that I may not have had. My wife, my kids: they’re what makes me wake up every day and go to work.”

When he’s not at work, Valdez likes to barbecue and spend time with his loved ones. He says online learning with a 9, 5, and 3-year-old has been tough over the past year, especially for the toddler in pre-school. He tries to get his kids out of the house whenever he can, bringing them to a trampoline park to jump it out after so much time cooped up at home, stuck in front of a computer.

Like many young parents, Valdez is looking forward to a beach vacation when the world gets back to normal.