Anthony Couverthier’s father was a building inspector. His brother is also a superior. The stepfather of his longtime partner also works as a great. But Mr. Couverthier spent years trying to be something else: a tour manager for a hip-hop group, a store clerk at Sprint, a Home Depot employee. After graduating high school in 1998, he was a communications major at Stony Brook University in Southampton.
He took baby steps, never wanting to get too deep into the family profession, first working as a full-time porter and handyman by day in a building on the Upper West Side and as a part-time super in a West Village building.
About five years ago, Mr Couverthier, a 45-year-old father of six, realized something needed to change as he carried his twin newborns in a double stroller up the stairs to his two-bedroom apartment in a fifth-floor walk-up where his partner, April Diaz, grew up in the East Village.
He desperately needed the biggest benefit that comes with working as a full-time superintendent: housing. He began taking free courses offered through SEIU’s 32BJ, the national property service workers union where he is a member, and got certified in everything from fire safety to locksmithing.
Mr. Couverthier’s old boss told him that the previous super at a building on West 72nd Street was retiring after nearly 30 years. Without him knowing, his former boss and Ismael Bonilla, the stepfather of Mr. Couverthier’s partner, Mrs. Diaz, and over 15 years in the building across the street, recommended him for the job.
The previous super didn’t live full-time in the building, but Mr. Couverthier knew he didn’t just want a full-time job, he wanted to build a home.
On March 1, 2020, just before Covid-19 deaths and lockdowns rocked New York, Mr. Couverthier took over as superintendent of the 48-unit building located less than a block away from Riverside Park and three blocks from Central Park.
Since then, his job has been a to-do list that never ends, filled with routine maintenance and the unexpected: A call is a crack on the fifth floor. Text is a light switch on four. An impromptu greeting in the hallway becomes a toilet that needs unclogging. He usually sends voice memos of incomplete assignments to Ms. Diaz as a way to save them on his phone. Sometimes he writes them on a whiteboard calendar, but mostly, he writes his daily to-do list on his left hand while drinking his morning coffee and watching ESPN.
“I’m what you call a Swatch head,” said Mr. Couverthier. He owns about 15 watches, and he estimates that 90 percent of them are Swatch watches, including his most worn, a 10-year-old Iron Edition that he bought from the Swatch store on the Lower East Side. He thinks he paid $125 for the watch, which “beats, but never really fooled me.”
Time is important to a superior whose schedule is dictated by priorities. Anything with water or electricity comes first and everything else can be done in order of importance, a process he has perfected over the years. Mr. Couverthier writes his list using a “should, could and would” philosophy. Water shut off for the renovation in 2B should take four hours. But he’s also always thinking about what could go bad and what he would to do (call a plumber) in the event. If there is time, he could change a water filter, replace a door or make copies of keys.
But there are some distractions: When he receives a call from Mark Gerald, a 78-year-old tenant who works as a psychoanalyst, they talk about the Knicks.
Mr. Couverthier’s younger brother is also a sports fan, but as superiors, their conversations inevitably turn to the stuff of superhood: Sheetrock, planters, side jobs.
He found a listening ear in Mr. Gerald, a Bronx native who has lived in the building for 25 years. Mr. Gerald used to talk about New York sports with his best friend, who died about the time Mr. Couverthier— putting on a rotation of Knicks and Mets caps – arrived to work in the building.
Style is important to Mr. Couverthier, who collects sneakers and fedoras and is often complimented by strangers on the street for his fashion sense. “It bothers me that he is — and I don’t want to use the word handsome — but he’s so handsome,” Mrs. Diaz laughed. “And it drives me crazy. There is no competition. I conceded that he would always be better dressed. I conceded that there is no amount of makeup or expensive clothes I can buy that will ever make me look as good as he does when we go out.”
The couple met more than 18 years ago when Mr. Couverthier was working at Sprint.
Ms. Diaz, 42, a stay-at-home mother who previously worked in property management, was hesitant to move into the super’s apartment in the building. “I was afraid. I was like, ‘Oh my god. How are we going to live here?’ Because the apartment looks nothing like when we moved. It didn’t feel like home,” she remembered thinking. But with her mother and father across the street to help with the twins, free rent on the Upper West Side, and a salary three times higher than Mr. Couverthier’s previous salary, they couldn’t pass it up. She began researching how to psychologically manage a difficult renovation and found an article that suggested giving a name to a living space in progress.
The couple named the apartment Aurora, based on the character from “Sleeping Beauty.” Then they gutted the place. Ms. Diaz would say, “Good morning, Aurora,” followed by Mr. Couverthier saying, “We’re here to make you beautiful again.” They lined the hallway outside their apartment with abstract, urban-themed art that he salvaged from his old building when residents moved out.
One evening, the sounds of salsa from the “This is Frankie Ruiz” Spotify channel filled the basement hallway where the couple lives in the two-bedroom apartment with their 5-year-old fraternal twins Ainslie and Augustus. (Mr. Couverthier has four other children from a previous relationship.)
The residence and work remind Mr. Couverthier of his childhood. His father, Carmelo Couverthier, a wallpaper installer, worked as a part-time superintendent in a Bedford-Stuyvesant building. He was not paid a salary, but the rent was reduced to $500 a month from $800 a month.
In those days, young Mr. Couverthier’s job was to take out the trash. He spent many summer days with his father, hanging drywall in the apartments of other tenants. “I would always think, ‘Why the hell are we doing this?'”
The answer, he now understands, was that it was a way to support a family in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Now, he can provide his own family with housing. Earlier this year, Mr. Couverthier’s mother, Virginia Simmons, traveled from Puerto Rico to visit. She cooked every night, including sancho. “Everybody comes here. His mom stays here. His brother stays here. It’s almost a home base for the family.” Ms. Diaz said. “That makes it an accomplishment for him because this is where everyone comes.”
Ms. Diaz decorates the lobby of the building every year, complete with an annual theme. Last year’s theme was “Winter Wonderland,” with several Christmas trees, and the year before that was “The Nutcracker,” and they put an eight-foot tall singing nutcracker in the lobby. The couple also purchased a menorah for the building with a custom runner, making sure to omit dreidels for children during Hanukkah.
In a way, the couple got closer to the tenants faster because Mr. Couverthier started less than three weeks before New York went into lockdown and his job expanded from maintenance and staffing to providing supplies and giving essential instructions. “I was a line of defense to make sure I kept them safe. They kind of trusted me. And I felt kind of good about that. Because we were in a situation where we didn’t know each other long enough. And that they actually put his – to honestly put his life in my hands – was, like, I took a bit proud of it.”
Because gyms were closed during the lockdown, Mr. Gerald would climb the building’s 12 flights of stairs for daily exercise, meeting Mr. Couverthier with a greeting, “Thanks for keeping the building safe, Anthony.”
In the spring of 2021, Mr. Gerald and his wife, Laini Gerald, attended a Mets game, one of their first post-lockout outings. They got free jerseys, and there was something electric in the air, Mr. Gerald recalled. “There is something about sports that has to do with the passage of time. There is always a new beginning. It doesn’t matter what happened last year. This is a new season. This could be the season where things will happen,” he said.
He sent a selfie of himself and Ms. Gerald in their jerseys to Mr. Couverthier, who recalled thinking, “This needs to be framed.”
It took nearly two years, but Ms. Diaz printed and framed the picture and wrapped it in shiny paper to give to the Geralds for Christmas in 2022.
The Geralds hung the photo in their apartment, which had just been renovated after one of Mr. Couverthier’s. could-wrong moments. (One night this February, water poured into the Geralds’ apartment, the result of a frozen pipe that buckled under the pressure of one of the coldest nights of the year.)
Mr. Couverthier’s job, now his career with benefits and housing for his family, much like the hole that formed in the pipe – it had to happen. “The superintendent’s hole” is what he calls it.
It took Mr. Couverthier a long time to see the light and become a full-time superior. He thinks that his oldest son, who is 24 years old and works as a craftsman, could also enter the family profession. “You get those opportunities with that kind of financial stability. And you know, so, make the best of it for yourself, your wife and your kids,” he said.