The Go-To Guy

Serving tenants, solving problems, raising spirits

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Ortega with concierge Manny Carlot
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Ortega with concierge Manny Carlot

For many residents of luxury buildings in Jersey City, the people who provide services often go unappreciated. Not so with the concierge, who is often the problem-solver-in-chief. Jose Ortega started out part time at 225 Grand, became full time, and stayed for six years.

At 37, he’d already logged 14 years in the industry when he was offered the head concierge gig last year at the newly opened 485 Marin, the massive red brick structure on the edge of Hamilton Park near Newport Mall.

“I’m the person most people first see when they come into the building,” he says. But his job is much more than greeting people who walk through the door. “I’m the person people turn to in order to solve problems.”

Daily responsibilities include rescuing online shopping packages and helping tenants move in.

“We get more than 150 packages delivered by UPS a day,” Ortega says. “We log them in and notify the residents that they are here.” Hundreds of packages and other deliveries have to be stored or sent to the appropriate place.

The 18-story building, sliced down the middle to provide a visual corridor for area residents, was designed to bridge the aesthetic of the Newport Mall and the historic neighborhood. Because the building is near the mall, the PATH train, and the Hudson Bergen Light Rail, some people are lost and looking for directions.

“I like people,” Ortega says. “And in this job, you get to meet a lot of different people every day.”

He grew up in Hoboken and Union City and lives in Bayonne, where he’s raising five kids.

“I start at 7 a.m.,” he says. “That’s when I sort through the work orders and see if there are any complaints or other issues. We have a checklist to see what’s going on.” He clocks out at 3 p.m.

The Answer Man

Home base is the desk in the massive lobby. “Some are looking for the leasing office,” he says. “Others have questions. Most of the time I know the answers. But if I don’t know, I find out, or I find someone who does know.”

People come to him for a host of other issues, such as lost keys, or problems in their units. A big part of his job is helping residents move in or out. “I try to tell new residents about the building to break the ice,” he says. New tenants may get confused because the building has two towers. Many of the shared amenities are on floors between them, including lounges, the TV room, gym, yoga room, work spaces, and rooftop swimming pool.

As a parent, Ortega understands issues new families face and directs them to helpful services such as the playroom next to the laundry room.

The building is across the street from fire headquarters and has become a training center for new recruits learning about fire systems in luxury high rises. Ortega has to know nearly as much as the fire inspectors. In case of fire, he reads the displays to identify where the problem is and helps firefighters respond.

Welcome Home

The building has a remarkable range of tenants. “There are a lot of students here, many from Columbia University,” Ortega says. “We also have a lot of professionals.”

“Jose is our eyes and ears,” says property manager Julie Martin. “He deals with everybody who walks through the door, and he knows our tenants. He does everything, and he provides a good first impression for people who want to come here.”

Ortega says he knows almost everybody in the building by sight and makes a point of getting to know newer people, so they can come to him if they need something. The building is more than just a place to sleep. It’s a community.

Public events help residents get to know each other, such as Super Bowl parties and a red carpet event for the building’s many dogs. A dog owner himself at one point, Ortega joins in the fun.

Residents linger and mingle during regular piano performances in the lobby.

“I like dealing with the residents,” Ortega says. “I like the fact that I could be dealing with any issue. There is always an opportunity for me to meet people. That’s partly why I love the job I do here.”

Ortega doesn’t even mind the occasional bad moods. “We get some of that,” he says. “But I like to turn a person’s bad mood into a good mood.”—JCM