The Art of Bringing People Together

Maximo Vazquez is recognized as Super of the Year at the 2021 Building Service Worker Awards.

| 29 Apr 2021 | 11:54

For Maximo Vazquez, being a super means being a “people person.” At Masaryk Towers, a residential complex with over 1,000 units spread across six buildings, Vazquez is always happy to lend a listening ear.

“People just want to be listened to,” he explained. “And I like to listen to people and I like to, you know, understand what their concerns are and then act on them. And that builds a trust between the super and the tenants.”

Vazquez, who hails from the Bronx, started working at Masaryk Towers 28 years ago when he dropped out of college after the passing of his mother. At first, he took a job as the building complex’s porter; eventually, he worked his way up the ranks — accumulating skills in carpentry, plumbing and more — in large part thanks to classes offered by 32BJ.

“In my office, I actually have on display, behind me — strategically behind me — I have all of my certificates,” Vazquez said, “so that anybody that walks in to talk to me about anything knows that I have some knowledge and some experience and some, you know, education behind me.”

Now, Vazquez has served as the complex’s super for 17 years and counting. The job is not without challenges, but Vazquez has long come prepared. When Hurricane Sandy hit the city, Vazquez rallied the 38 employees under his leadership to form a “bucket brigade” to bail out flood water from the residential buildings’ basements by passing water from one worker’s bucket to another’s in a line formation leading outside. In total, the effort took two days to complete.

Vazquez applies many of the skills that he’s acquired on the job and through 32BJ to endeavors outside of his work at Masaryk Towers, too. Vazquez flips houses in New Jersey and rents out some of the properties that he fixes up. He also has an affinity for Egyptian art, which he’s turned into a hands-on hobby by sculpting his own works in the style of what one might find in a museum.

“Art is kind of like a meditation to me,” Vazquez explained. “I get lost, I forget about everything — I forget about the world. I’m just focused on what I’m doing.”

Before COVID-19 hit the city last spring, Vazquez had contemplated entering some of his work in an annual 32BJ art exhibit.

He’s even brought a creative touch to Masaryk Towers, as of late. While a new boiler plant was being constructed, Vazquez gathered photos and mementos from building colleagues and residents for a time capsule, which he tucked away in a 30-foot-deep hole before the final layer of cement was poured over top.

Ever the learner, Vazquez enjoys listening to audiobooks to unwind after work. One of his favorite books, “The Art of War,” inspires him to lead his fellow building workers as a united front into each new day on the job.

“Between all of us,” Vazquez said, “it’s a close-knit community.”