Volume 20, Number 43 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN - MARCH 7 -- 13, 2008

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

Connie Rocchi right, an I.P.N. resident for 32 years, and Edith Katz, also a resident of 32 years, protested the February firing of their doorman of 25 years, Gulcharan “Dave” Sahadeo, who needed two more months to be eligible for a pension.

Tenants take to the street after I.P.N. doorman is fired

By Julie Shapiro

When Gulcharan Sahadeo, a doorman at Independence Plaza North, saw an elderly Asian woman enter the building Feb. 12 with a group of four men, he didn’t think anything of it. The woman was standing at the side of one of the men and appeared to be part of the group.

The woman, though, was not a guest. After she knocked on a tenant’s door, the tenant called an Independence Plaza security officer, who called the police, Sahadeo said. Officers escorted the woman, who did not appear to speak English, out of the building, and the incident seemed over.

But the following day, Sahadeo, known to residents as Dave, was fired.

Sahadeo, 63, had worked at 80 North Moore St. for nearly 25 years and was two months away from being eligible to retire with a pension. He is appealing the firing with the Service Employees International Union, Local 32 BJ, and is collecting unemployment in the meantime.

“I do not have any bad record for 25 years,” Sahadeo said in a phone interview from his home in Richmond Hill, Queens. “I did a good job…. I know everybody there.”

As word of Sahadeo’s dismissal spread, Independence Plaza tenants were shocked and angry. Many had assumed he was on vacation or had a family emergency.

Elizabeth Saenger, a member of the tenant association, described Sahadeo as kind and solicitous.

“He’s very good as a doorman,” she said, recalling Sahadeo’s reminders about packages or repairmen. “It’s nice to have someone recognize you.”

Saenger thinks Sahadeo is too conscientious to be fired after making one mistake. She and other tenants believe management fired him to avoid paying his pension.

Kathleen Cudahy, spokesperson for owner Stellar Management, would not comment on personnel issues and had no direct response to the tenants’ allegations. ”They take security very seriously over there,” Cudahy said. “It’s a very large complex so they have to be very careful about who comes in and who’s in the building.”

Building security did not return calls for comment.

To protest Sahadeo’s firing, the Independence Plaza Tenant Association rallied outside of 80 North Moore last Thursday. As temperatures plummeted and the wind whipped around the corner of Greenwich St., about 25 tenants huddled behind neon signs in the fading twilight. They chanted, “We want Dave” and “No more union busting,” pacing up and down to keep warm.

One protestor clutching a cup of tea was Kim Monjoy, 39, who has lived in the building since 2002.

“He cares about you,” she said of Sahadeo. “He’s a friend.”

Monjoy’s aunt has lived in Independence Plaza since it opened, and Sahadeo always kept Monjoy updated if anything seemed amiss with her.

Other tenants described Sahadeo as a familiar face for the children in the building. The children grew up greeting him on the way home from school and showing him their drawings, Saenger said. Tenants called Sahadeo cheerful, reliable and a hard worker.

If a tenant got out of a cab and didn’t have enough money to cover it, Sahadeo said he would spot the cash, and the tenants nearly always paid him back. Sahadeo even fixed tenant Pamela Oubeaulieu’s stove when she couldn’t get it started.

“I’m just so completely shocked,” Oubeaulieu said of Sahadeo’s firing. “It makes me feel sick that this could happen to someone who was always there for everyone, whatever they needed.”

Oubeaulieu called the charges against Sahadeo “trumped up” and said that a new doorman who is still learning to recognize all the faces would be even more likely to let strangers in.

Local 32 BJ, Sahadeo’s union, released a statement saying Sahadeo’s firing “was without just cause and…needlessly and unjustifiably severe.” The union tried to convince Stellar Management to reinstate Sahadeo, but the company refused. Now, the union is moving toward arbitration, in which an independent third party would hear both sides and make a decision.

Sahadeo grew up in Trinidad and came to the United States in 1970. Before coming to Independence Plaza in 1983, he worked as a supervisor at a factory in Brooklyn that made credit cards. He has four children: a son, 24, who is serving in the Air Force, and three children who are in college. His wife is not currently working, so money is tight, he said.

Gertrude Stein, who has lived in Independence Plaza with her husband for 15 years, said she would miss Sahadeo.

“We feel safe with him,” she said. “We depend on his good judgment — he knows when good faces come along.”

On Thursday, after half an hour of protesting in the numbing cold, Diane Lapson, president of the tenant association, turned to her troops and told them the group had made its point and it was time to return inside.

As the protest concluded, Monjoy looked around at the shivering tenants and said, “If there’s anyone who can get him back, it’s this group.”

Julie@DowntownExpress.com



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