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From White Gloves to Latex, the Doormen of New York


When it was reported that the virus can survive on inert surfaces like cardboard and plastic, he went back to them for money to install an Ozonator tent for packages. “Normally, we get about 60 a day,” Mr. Mercado said. The number quadrupled once people began to shelter indoors. “Now it’s like Christmas,” Mr. Mercado said.

“I don’t know that it would help,” he added, of the tent, which helps disinfect the packages. “But I can’t imagine it would hurt.”

Managers, doormen and valets, with their quiddities and quirks, help set the tone for the singular ecosystem that is any given apartment building, as Mr. Soffer, the banker, explained. The relationship between them and residents, as with concierges in Paris, is an unusual combination of familiarity and distance, formality and — during moments like this — tenderness.

“There’s the young guy that’s quiet, and the older guy that’s a grump,” Mr. Soffer said. “The building has always been run like the Starship Enterprise, but until this happened and I stopped to listen to them, I never realized how at risk these guys were, even from the viewpoint of living paycheck to paycheck.”

Like so many of those responsible for keeping New York running, its doormen are both omnipresent and yet oddly unseen. Last week, as all New Yorkers began to shrink from human contact and hunker down in self-isolation, their presence in their woolen greatcoats, piped trousers, neckties, white shirts and white gloves, lent the city a needful element of stability.

“We’re in this moment where no one will touch anyone, and cashiers won’t take credit cards and you don’t want people breathing on you and these guys are still there on the front lines,” Mr. Soffer said. “They don’t have the option to go the Hamptons — they have to touch. Just thinking about all that gave me a new level of appreciation and respect.”

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