‘I Rig and Ride Scaffolds All Over the City’

Steven Purvey, a window cleaner for the past 40 years, says the job and the union made it possible for him to send his daughter to college.

| 02 Apr 2024 | 11:23

“I am a daredevil.”

That seems like it should be in the job description for anyone who chooses to make a living hanging from the outside of New York City skyscrapers.

For Steven Purvey, window cleaning wasn’t just a fascination, it was in his blood. The Bronx native, who grew up across the street from Yankee Stadium said: “It was fascinating watching the guys overhead swinging from the rigs. I always enjoyed that.” Fortunately for him, his uncle was in the industry, as well as his brother and other family members. “That’s where it all started. That’s how I got into it.”

And now, after four decades, “I still like hanging overhead, doing my job safely and accurately, and getting to go home at the end of the day. I rig and ride scaffolds all over the city. I just like having that challenge in my heart. Can I do this, especially without hurting anybody, primarily myself?”

Even a daredevil has to admit that sometimes the job can be a little scary.

“Sometimes the scaffold breaks down while you’re on it, and you’ve got to know how to handle it until the maintenance company gets there. Sometimes it goes for an hour, sometimes it goes for 5 or 6 hours.”

But there are fun and interesting experiences too. “My best day on the job was when I was working at Olympic Tower and my boss asked if I wanted to be in a television commercial for Schlitz Malt Liquor. I had to do a stunt where I came over the scaffold.” For that, he got his day’s pay and got paid for doing the commercial plus he got to keep the Timberland boots that were part of his TV wardrobe.

Purvey also appreciates that window cleaning has always allowed him to put food on the table and a lot more. Most importantly, his career provided him the opportunity to send his 24-year-old daughter Stephannie to Northeastern University from which she graduated with a degree in Computer Engineering. “Thanks to this industry, it was able to happen,” says the proud father.

Now, of course, he can also be proud of himself. Purvey said he’s honored to receive the award. “I believe it’s the best award I’ve ever won in my life. I think it might be the only one I’ve ever won.”

Clearly, good things come to those who wait...and work hard.