Anthony Couverthier’s father was a building superintendent. His brother is a super, too. His longtime partner’s stepfather also works as a super. 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 a 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, 45, a father of six, realized something needed to change when he was hoisting 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 badly needed the biggest perk that comes with working as a full-time superintendent: an apartment. He started taking free courses offered through SEIU’s 32BJ, the national union of property service workers, where he is a member, and got certified in everything from fire safety to locksmithing.
Mr. Couverthier’s old boss told him the previous super at a building on West 72nd Street was retiring after almost 30 years. Without him knowing, his former boss and Ismael Bonilla, the stepfather of Mr. Couverthier’s partner, Ms. Diaz, and super of 15 years in the building across the street, recommended him for the job.
The previous super didn’t live in the building full-time, but Mr. Couverthier knew he didn’t only want a full-time job, he wanted to build a home.
On March 1, 2020, just before Covid-19 deaths and a lockdown would shake New York City, 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. A text is a light bulb switch on four. An impromptu hello in the hallway becomes a toilet that needs unclogging. He usually sends voice notes of incomplete tasks to Ms. Diaz as a way to save them in his phone. Sometimes he writes them on a whiteboard calendar, but mostly, he writes his daily to-do list on his left hand, as he drinks his morning coffee and watches ESPN.
“I’m what you call a Swatch-head,” Mr. Couverthier said. He owns roughly 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 timepiece that “takes a beating but has never really conked out on me.”
Time is important to a super whose schedule is dictated by priorities. Anything with water or electricity comes first and everything else can done in order of importance, a process he’s honed over the years. Mr. Couverthier writes his list using a “should, could and would” philosophy. A water shut down for the renovation in 2B should take four hours. But he’s also always thinking about what could go wrong and what he would do (call a plumber) in the event. If there’s time, he could change a water filter, replace a doorknob or make copies of keys.
But there are some diversions: When he gets 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 supers, their conversations inevitably turn to the stuff of super-hood: Sheetrock, planters, side jobs.
He found a listening ear in Mr. Gerald, a native of the Bronx who has lived in the building for 25 years. Mr. Gerald used to talk New York sports with his best friend who died around the time that Mr. Couverthier — donning 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 often gets 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 pretty — but he is so pretty,” Ms. Diaz laughed. “And it drives me nuts. There is no competition. I’ve conceded that he will always be better dressed. I have conceded that there’s no amount of makeup or expensive clothing that I can buy that will ever make me look as good as him 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 scared. I was like, ‘Oh my god. How are we gonna live here?’ Because the apartment looks nothing like when we moved in. It didn’t feel like home,” she recalled 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 increase, they couldn’t pass it up. She began to research how to psychologically manage a tough renovation and found an article that suggested giving a living space-in-progress a name.
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 pretty again.” They lined the hallway outside their apartment with abstract, city-themed art 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 apartment and job remind Mr. Couverthier of his childhood. His father, Carmelo Couverthier, a wallpaper installer, worked as a part-time super in a Bedford-Stuyvesant building. He wasn’t paid a salary, but the rent was reduced to $500 a month from $800 per month.
In those days, the young Mr. Couverthier’s job was to take out the trash. He spent many summer days with his father, hanging drywall in other tenants’ apartments. “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 sancocho. “Everybody comes here. His mom stays here. His brother stays here. It is almost a home base for the family.” Ms Diaz said. “That’s what makes it an accomplishment for him because this is where everybody comes.”
Ms. Diaz decorates the building’s lobby every year, complete with an annual theme. Last year’s theme was “Winter Wonderland,” with multiple Christmas trees, and the year before that was “The Nutcracker,” and they placed an eight-foot-tall singing nutcracker in the lobby. The couple also purchased a menorah for the building with a custom runner, being sure to leave out dreidels for children during Hanukkah.
In some ways, the couple grew closer to the tenants faster because Mr. Couverthier began less than three weeks before New York City entered 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 put their trust in me. And I felt kind of good about it. Because we were in a situation where we didn’t know each other long enough. And for them to actually put their — honestly put their life in my hands — was, like, I kind of took pride in that.”
Since gyms were closed during the lockdown, Mr. Gerald would climb the building’s 12 flights of stairs for daily exercise, running into Mr. Couverthier with a salutation, “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-lockdown outings. They received free jerseys, and there was something electric in the air, Mr. Gerald recalled. “There’s something about sports that’s related to the passage of time. There’s always a new beginning. Doesn’t matter what happened last year. This is a new season. This could be the season where things are gonna happen,” he said.
He texted a selfie of himself and Ms. Gerald in their jerseys to Mr. Couverthier, who remembered thinking, “This needs to be framed.”
It took nearly two years, but Ms. Diaz got the image printed and framed and wrapped it in shiny paper to give to the Geralds for Christmas in 2022.
The Geralds hung the photo up in their apartment, which was recently renovated after one of Mr. Couverthier’s could-go-wrong moments. (One night this February, water poured into the Geralds’ apartment, the result of a frozen pipe that had buckled under the pressure of one of the coldest nights of the year.)
Mr. Couverthier’s job, now his career with benefits and an apartment for his family, has been a lot like the hole that formed in the pipe — it was bound to happen. “The superintendent hole” is what he calls it.
It took Mr. Couverthier a long time to see the light and become a full-time super. He thinks his oldest son, who is 24 and works as a handyman, might also make his way into the family profession. “You get those opportunities with that kind of financial stability. And you know, then, make the best of it for yourself, your wife and your kids,” he said.