The co-op we owned in Astoria was a huge brick prewar building. Three of its sides were either attached to other buildings or else sealed off by high barbed-wire fencing. The only way into the building was the front door, and that meant going through the lobby, past the super’s apartment.
The super, a tall youngish man with tattoos on his arms from his days in the Serbian military, had an almost preternatural ability to detect untoward noise in the lobby. Slam the door by mistake, and Poof!—he would appear, making sure everything was OK.
One night, a drug addict tried to sneak into the building to sleep in the lobby. The super was having none of it. When the intruder refused an order to leave, the super physically picked the guy up and through him out—literally, like they do on TV cop shows. Our co-op was like a fortress, and our super kept it safe. That was one of his many jobs in the building, and he one he did with aplomb.
The Captain of the Ship
A good super is essential to the well being of a building. He or she is generally hired by, and reports to, the property manager. In larger buildings, the super has his own staff, comprised of porters, doormen, and handymen, who perform the more menial tasks, while the super focuses on larger issues and liases with the shareholders. In smaller buildings—like mine in Astoria—the super does it all, from changing batteries in fire alarms to baiting the mousetraps in the basement.
“The super is the captain of the ship,” says Peter Grech, president and director of educational services with the New York Superintendents Technical Association (NYSTA). “He/she oversees and supervises all staff, all contractors.”