As a bright-eyed young man, Louis DeJesus walked through the wooden entryway of 240 West 98th Street for the first time 20 years ago.
“This is going to be good,” he thought at the time. And it has been.
Now 50, DeJesus has spent nearly half of his life working on the Upper West Side; he has grown up with his co-workers.
“We came as young men. Now we [are] middle-aged men,” DeJesus said. “That says a lot.”
DeJesus watched his tenants grow up, too, sharing in their victories and milestones.
“You see these kids and they [are] little and into sports and their friends. Then you see the stages they go through,” he said. “They go to junior high school, to high school, to college, and to careers and they do positive work. I’m so proud of them for that.”
When he started at his building, DeJesus worked part-time and would do anything to progress, saying he was at one point married to the job.
“I would really work because I know I needed the job, I needed the money, and I wanted the next opening to come up,” he said. I worked my tail off, I would do any shift, any job, I did it all – and when that position was open, they gave it to me.”
His hard work has allowed him to send his three daughters to college.
DeJesus describes himself as just a kid from East Harlem and, when referring to all he’s achieved, he’s proud and almost in awe of it all.
“[This job] saved my life,” he said.
In the two decades DeJesus has spent working at 240 West 98th, he’s worked alongside people who’ve become lifelong friends. Some he still works with while others have already retired.
He hopes to make it to 62 before retiring.
Upon his retirement, DeJesus hopes to spend time traveling with his wife and fixing up their home in Florida. He also wants to visit some old co-workers.
Two of his friends from the evening shift, both from Puerto Rico, retired and moved back to the U.S. territory.
“It’s always been our dream that when I get there we will be together,” DeJesus said. “They’re waiting for me.”
“We came as young men. Now we [are] middle-aged men. That says a lot.” Louis Dejesus