“I came to this country from the Dominican Republic,” said Marcos Morillo, the super of 1720 Mayflower Ave. “And the main reason was, I was looking for better opportunities for myself and my family.”
The beginning wasn’t easy. Morillo had a green card and all of the necessary paperwork to move in with his brother, who lived in the Bronx. But it would be over two years before Morillo’s wife and two-year-old son could join him in New York.
Morillo arrived in 1985 and started juggling two jobs: he worked in an umbrella factory in Manhattan from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and afterwards would commute to Brooklyn for an evening shift stocking supermarket shelves. He didn’t speak English when he started working at the grocery store – but was determined to help customers find the items they were looking for.
“I remember, I copied down all of the names of the products ... then, I made the translation in Spanish,” Morillo explained. He would bring his notes home to his brother, who taught him the English pronunciation for each word. “In a short period of time ... when they asked me for something, I knew where it was,” he said.
As a result, Morillo was promoted from working the floor to the cash register.
But within a matter of months, the gig took a turn for the worse. While working the register one day, two people entered the store and held Morillo up at gunpoint, forcing him to hand over cash from the register. They then locked Morillo and his coworker in the bathroom while they robbed the store.
“I never forgot that,” said Morillo. “To me, that was a red flag.” He gave his boss two week’s notice, trained his replacement, and found a union job as a porter at 1720 Mayflower Ave in the Bronx.
“At that time, I didn’t speak too much English,” he said. “But thank god [the union] had a training school and I started taking English class.”
From there, he took every course and test he could: plumbing, electrician class, carpentry, locksmith class, environmental protection, and others.
Within a year, Morillo started working as a handyman in the building, and his wife and son finally joined him in New York. “That was one happy family reunion,” he recalled.
When the building’s super announced he was leaving in 1990, three years after he started as porter, Morillo threw his hat in for the job.
He has called 1720 Mayflower Ave. home ever since.
Morillo’s favorite part of the job is helping others, a trait his grandmother and great-grandmother taught him. “They told me when I was growing up, that when I had the opportunity to help somebody else, to do it,” he said.
Through his career at 1720 Mayflower, Morillo was able to put both of his children through college. His son went to Fordham University, and his daughter graduated cum laude from SUNY Albany, and now has a Master’s degree.
Building a better life for his family, and getting his children access to a college education, was always Morillo’s goal.
“To me, the union has been life changing,” said Morillo, wiping a tear from his cheek. “I was able to accomplish my dream.”
“They told me when I was growing up, that when I had the opportunity to help somebody else, to do it.” Marcos Morillo