Volume 17 • Issue 22 | October 22 - 28, 2004

Neighbors help Tribeca porter who was run over

By Hemmy So

Grieving Tribecans are reaching out to the family of a night porter who was killed crossing the street last week.
Ernesto Torres, who worked at Tribeca Tower apartment building, died at NYU Downtown Hospital early morning on Oct. 14 after being struck by an automobile. He was 48.

Alicia and Ernesto Torres. Ernesto, a porter at Tribeca Tower, was killed last week while crossing Church St. Alicia is raising their 3-month-old daughter and two sons, 15 and 22.
Torres was crossing Church St. at the Duane St. intersection shortly after 3 a.m. when a car hit him. The driver stopped two blocks later and a cab driver who witnessed the incident called the police. The driver was initially arrested but charges against him were dropped, said Det. Bernard Gifford, a police spokesperson.

Torres leaves behind his wife Alicia, their 3-month-old baby daughter, and their sons, who are 15 and 22. Alicia Torres was composed as she spoke to a reporter in her apartment in the Ben Franklin Houses Monday. Family members were also there paying their respects.

“They’re trying to cope,” Torres said about her children. “It was not easy for them when they saw their father in the casket.” But she said her family has found comfort in their religious faith and hope for the future.

Tenants in the Tribeca building have donated money and are looking to set up a scholarship fund for the baby girl.

“His job was very important to him,” Alicia Torres said. “He was a perfectionist.”

As night porter, Torres maintained the building’s health club, laundry room and lobby areas. He wanted everything spotless and even made sure his co-workers used the best cleaning products, Alicia Torres said.

Her husband was heading out to buy coffee on his break when he was struck. The errand was part of a 10-year routine, said Bruce Sumpter, a Tribeca Tower concierge who worked closely with Torres.

Torres’ family held his funeral last Sunday at Farenga Brothers funeral home on East 116th St.

Ross Schulman, a longtime resident at Tribeca Tower, attended the funeral and said about 200 people were there for the services. “I was there only for about an hour. I saw about ten guys who work in the building and several tenants around them,” he said.

Known to many in the building as simply “Nesto,” Torres had worked at the 52-story luxury high-rise Tribeca Tower since its opening in 1994.

“As a colleague he was well respected and liked. When he was around, you knew he had your back. We worked as a team,” said Sumpter. “When he was there, no matter what happened, you always felt secure and protected. And I’m going to miss that,” he added.

Because of his unusual hours, many residents had only limited contact with Torres.

Those residents who knew Torres more closely learned about his life and family through late-night conversations.

Jonathan Davidoff, an attorney and 8-year resident, first started chatting with Torres during Davidoff’s law school days. “He was a super man, really a great guy – very generous, very warm, very friendly, always willing to help out, he said. “We were fortunate to have him in our building.”

“For many years, I would come home late and possibly find him on a break, and I would sit and talk with him,” said Schulman, a teacher and childcare administrator. “We got to know each other pretty well, actually. He just engendered wonderful feelings and friendship in people. He was a real sweetheart.”

Alicia Torres said that as members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Madison Ave., the family has found great support through their faith. Ernesto Torres was an active member of the church, working on a hospital liaison committee for Metropolitan Hospital Center on 1st Ave. and 98th St. that sought to meet the needs of hospital patients. Torres also helped in his church’s search for a new hall after its previous building suffered damages last winter.

Davidoff and Schulman hope to collect money and establish a trust fund for Torres’ baby daughter. Torres’ wife said she will use the money she’s already received to cover funeral costs, take care of her children and mother-in-law, and also continue to contribute to various charities her husband supported.

Born in San Turce, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 20, 1956, Torres came to New York when he was five years old. He lived in Brooklyn, where he attended Eli Whitney High School. Prior to working at Tribeca Tower, Torres had worked at 4 Janovic Plaza for about eight years.

Anyone interested in contacting the Torres family can write Alicia Torres at 334 E. 108 St., Apt. 11F, New York, N.Y. 10029.

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