The Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd Street has 36 floors and over 1,200 rooms. One man, Wayne Blanks, cleans every interior window, and has been named Window Cleaner of the Year. Blanks been cleaning the windows there since 2002.
Despite his years of hard work, including 30 years of membership in 32BJ, Blanks was surprised to hear about the award for Window Cleaner of the Year. “I thought it was a joke,” Blanks says. “We play jokes on each other.”
The first thing Blanks did was call his father, who is in the hospital. “I told him the award was for him,” Blanks says. “My father did this same job for over 30 years, taught me the business and how to do neat and clean work.”
While most days include hard work and a general sense of calm, Blanks and a co-worker were working on the hotel roof on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when a plane flew straight over their heads. “We watched it go past the MetLife Building and saw it hit the World Trade Center,” Blanks recalled. “Shocked, of course, and it could’ve been us.”
When Blanks started at the Hyatt in 1998, there was a staff of four, but by the end of 2001, he was the last man standing. Windows of the hotel rooms, restaurant, fitness center, ballrooms and conference rooms were his alone to make sparkle and shine. Blanks calls himself “a one-man army.”
“I try to make everything look good,” he says, “but a little at a time since I can’t do it all at once.”
Before settling down at the Grand Hyatt, Blanks mastered his trade at New York Hospital and the Roosevelt Hotel, among other institutions. Blanks, 56, has a wife, four children, and two grandchildren in Georgia that he speaks with often.
Blanks, who was born and still lives in Westchester, gets up at 4 a.m. to walk his 10-year-old Rottweiler. He then heads for Midtown for a 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift.
Blanks often has his father in mind. “He taught me to take pride in my work and that in the long run, it would pay off,” he says. “And it did.”