02 - Joe Toro, New York
Joe Toro has helmed the door at 45 East 80th Street for 14 years and is as punctilious with security as he is with his white gloves and morning greeting. “I know most of the neighbours and I’m friendly with people who I wouldn’t have thought I had anything in common with,” he tells Monocle. “My job is to make the residents feel comfortable. I protect them as if they were my own. Some talk about their families or their day and others don’t but everyone is interesting.”
While Toro enjoys passing the time of day with residents, the Upper East Side Manhattan apartment block under his charge is known for its tough security. “Some people like it and some think it’s too much, but it marks us out, so I like that,” says Toro. With two doormen and a porter on duty at all times, each visitor to the 50-unit building must show ID before Toro or his colleagues phone to let residents know of their guest’s arrival.
Striking the balance between secure entrance and friendly welcome is a task that doormen in New York City frequently face. Residents often call needing help with jobs like unlocking a suitcase or reaching items on high shelves, but the doormen make sure there is always someone manning the desk. In a city where security is a concern, doormen like Toro are key to a neighbourhood’s safety. He is a hard-man with a smile. Commuting daily from the South Bronx, being part of the building’s community is what Toro enjoys most. “This building has become my second home.”
03 - Ali, London
Known to residents only by his first name, Aji’s character matches that of the Marylebone mansion block in his care; neat, discreet, and gently joyful.
Aji arrived in 1964 from Nigeria and spent decades combining concierge work with study. With law exams and a building degree, he may be the capital’s highest-qualified porter. Only after some time does he let you know he is a prince in Nigeria.
“I look after this place as I would my own home,” he says. “The people who live here are my friends.” He may not guide you to the best table in the neighbourhood but he can soothe a screaming baby, redirect errant parcels and polish the brass entrance plaque to a military standard. Such is his attention to detail, Aji has been heard expressing frustration at trees for shedding leaves in his courtyard.
The pride in presentation extends to Aji himself. There is always a collar and tie under his hi-vis waistcoat. During building work, he places a cap on top of his hard hat. “I have worn a shirt and tie since I was a child,” he explains.