Proud that she’s strong enough to do the job

She learned about cleaning at JFK and now works with people she considers her second family. This interview was conducted in Spanish and quotes have been translated.

| 18 Oct 2023 | 12:42

Sandra Leiton works as a cleaner in Lefrak City, taking out the trash and cleaning the empty apartments left behind when tenants move out. It’s a physically demanding job and Leiton is proud that as a woman, she can do it.

“I like my work,” she said. “I like doing what I do.”

She said the job allows her to use skills she has developed over decades, and also spend time with coworkers she considers family members.

Leiton first came to the U.S. 25 years ago from Colombia. When she first moved to New York, she worked at JFK Airport as a cleaner. She stayed in that position for 11 years.

When she came to New York her son was young, and Leiton thought she would work for a short while and return home to Columbia. But, she explained, once you start to work you have obligations with the kids; she stopped thinking about going back.

In addition to working as a cleaner in LeFrak City, she also lives in an apartment within the complex. She enjoys spending her free time with her son, daughter, and two grandchildren, who live on Long Island. She also loves to ride a bicycle and get exercise. Her daughter is a project manager at Port Authority, and her son, previously in the military, is now studying computer systems.

Leiton is proud of the fact that the skills she acquired in over a decade working at JFK has enabled her to teach others at Lefrak City how to do things, like using the machines and how best to clean floors.

“This job is really hard,” Leiton admits. “But we as women can do it.”

Leiton said her children motivate her more than anything else. “I had to work; my kids were growing up so I had to work. Nobody will give you anything for free. It’s not motivation, just obligation.”

“My favorite thing about this job is working with my coworkers. This is like my second family,” she explains. “My kids are already grown up. So this is my second family, my companions.”