Jeffrey Matthews was 22 when he began working at 300 East 77th St. He started out in construction, and helped put up the building itself. He was working at FedEx when his cousin let him know the site was looking for more workers. Now 44, Matthews has known the building and its tenants since the beginning. Once 300 East 77th was built, Matthews went to do construction at 425 Fifth Ave., but got called back to be a porter at 300 E. 77th because he knew the place so well.
“They knew I knew the building, they knew I was a good worker. I come in every day, I wasn't missing days, playing around, none of that stuff," he says. "So they knew I was serious about what I was doing. I would come in on Saturdays for them if I had nothing to do. I know how much I care about this building, so that's why I jumped. It was a fight to get back over here though ’cause they were like, no, we want him here. But they made it happen."
The real reason Matthews’ heart is at 300 East 77th is the tenants. He says they care about the building staff and treat them like family, “not like you’re just any old worker.” He has loved watching tenants’ children grow up, go off to college and get their first jobs. “It's trust from so many years of doing for them and looking out, helping out. They do the same thing right back,” he says. Though his title is porter, he helps cover the door and sometimes does repairs. Matthews has learned a lot from the building’s handyman, who has worked at the building while it was being built. Matthews likes that so many of his coworkers are as invested in the building’s history as he is. As a shop steward for 32BJ, he has seen considerable turnover at other buildings, and knows there’s something special about how long the people who work at 300 East 77th have been there.
Matthews has a condo in Brooklyn, and is currently engaged to his girlfriend. He has two kids, one of whom is playing football at Buffalo State. Matthews goes to see him play on Saturdays. He hangs out with his brothers during his time off, goes to the gym and enjoys playing video games.
“They knew I knew the building, they knew I was a good worker. I come in every day, I wasn't missing days, playing around, none of that stuff." Jeffrey Matthews