Troy Parker became a 32BJ member in 1988 and has held just about every position a person can have in his line of work. Doorman, porter, handyman - he’s done it all. Now he’s the resident manager at 484 Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Parker, 52, started this job just this past spring after spending 32 years working for Columbia University. There, he managed faculty apartment buildings and student dorms. His new gig is giving him the opportunity to put his skills to use on a much grander scale. “I went from six buildings with a staff of 20 and like 280 apartments to a staff of 60 now and 1800 apartments,” he says.
He says it’s 32BJ that made him want more, though he remembers his father asking him if he was sure he wanted to take on extra responsibility. Parker started taking classes at the union and was part of the first group of “green supers” who were trained in environmentally friendly practices. “I started to want to do something more and learn more about the upper part of it. So then after that I took the management courses we had. Then I took human relations. I'm up to the resident manager one program now,” he says.
But maybe it’s Parker who should be teaching the classes. He comes in every morning at 8 to meet with his handymen and give them assignments. Then he bounces around checking on any projects or construction going on, while finding time to do payroll and deal with tenants. A lot of what he’s learned comes from his dad, who got Parker a summer job at Columbia, where he worked. Eventually, Parker was put in charge of a student dorm, which he describes as “eventful.” There were drunk students playing pranks on their roommates and flooding their apartment, students breaking the rules and going out on the roof - but Parker took it all in good humor.
He says at that time he was “like a sponge” soaking up all the knowledge and tricks of the trade he possibly could. “I learned how to deal with difficult people. I learned how to do repairs. I learned plumbing work, electrical work, carpentry work. They would go into an apartment and I would go in there with them and see what they doing, show them what to do. And some of those turned into relationships and friendships that I still have to this day,” he says.
Parker and his wife have been married for 21 years, and his six kids range from 13 to 32. They were never huge fans of his job because his phone was always ringing. But then, like Parker’s father before him, he got his son a summer job at Columbia and showed him the ropes. “He would come in every day and he would deal with these people that deal with me every day and he would see what I do every day. He said, ‘I don't know how you do it,’” Parker says. But he wants his son to know he has choices and can pursue any career he wants.
“I started to want to do something more ... I took the management courses we had. Then I took human relations. I'm up to the resident manager one program now." Troy Parker