Locked out? Need your heat fixed? Perhaps your apartment has a problem with multi-legged creatures. Who are you going to call? Your building superintendent, of course. Your super is there to repair the broken, find the missing, and restore order when things go haywire.
Years ago, a New York City building superintendent might also be called "the handyman," "the janitor," "the maintenance man," or "the porter" and was called upon by residents to make repairs and keep the building fully operational.
"When I was a boy before World War II, most supers lived in the basement of the buildings they worked for," says Dick Koral, secretary/treasurer for the New York City Superintendents Technical Association, formerly known as the Superintendents Club of New York, a non-profit technical society that works to educate and professionalize building superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, porters, and other multifamily building support personnel in the New York City region. "They had large families down there, too. Pay was very low, benefits non-existent, and they shoveled coal into the old boilers."
Fortunately, times have changed. Today, building superintendents have moved out of the basement and into healthier, more spacious living quarters that fit the needs of their family. In many buildings - particularly high-end luxury buildings - there is a definite hierarchy among building staff, with the superintendent firmly on top. In addition to that, most New York City superintendents are also now unionized, have access to healthcare and can earn a respectable salary.
The super's job responsibilities have expanded, too. Along with the managing agent, the super helps to keep the building operating smoothly by not only performing minor repairs, but also overseeing building staff and maintaining the building's basic operating systems. Overall, the super has a significant say in how well the building functions, both mechanically and as a workplace and home.