By Lisa Kava
Joey Gomez had a lot of keys on his belt. He was a “freelance” handyman and superintendent for more than a dozen brownstones on West 94th Street, between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue. He performed the tasks of those trades: sorting and putting out the trash and recyclables, hosing down the sidewalk, shoveling snow, watering plants, making repairs, and much more.
“He was known simply as ‘Gomez,’” said Paul Moisselin, a resident of West 94th, who first brought Gomez to the Rag’s attention. “That’s how he introduced himself. Many residents never even knew his first name.” They also didn’t know that he was sick, or that chronic bronchial asthma had weakened his heart. On June 28th, Joey Gomez died, unexpectedly, at the age of 63.
“He managed his work efficiently and enthusiastically, never neglecting to extend a polite, cheerful greeting,” said Michael Grossman, president of the West 94th Street Park Block Association. “He had the most beautiful smile, coupled with an enthusiastic greeting. He was a reassuring presence on our block,” Patricia Beilman said.
Residents of West 94th Street describe Gomez as a special man and an important part of their daily routine. He was more than just a handyman to those who knew him. He helped make their lives easier in small ways. “He was aware of Department of Sanitation rules and wanted to make sure people didn’t get ticketed by putting trash out on the wrong day, so he’d move it,” Beth Wells remembers. “He was a humble, kind man.”
“We just came back from vacation and were looking forward to seeing him again on the block,” Moisselin recalled, in an email. “It was a shock to find out he passed away. He was the life of the block, always with a smile on his face, super kind to everyone. My kids (2 and 4) loved him. When we came outside, he always had a nice word. He was a good man and he is missed every day.”
Moisselin was also shocked to learn that Gomez had financial problems. He realized when Gomez’s brother, Ramon, and his sister-in-law, Clara, set up a GoFundMe account to raise the money to cover his funeral expenses. “He died without benefits or insurance and was behind in rent and energy bills,” Clara explained. The West 94th Street Block Association donated $1,000, and many residents made individual contributions, said Michael Grossman.
“His client relationships were very informal in nature, he was not on the payroll anywhere like a doorman would be,” Paul Moisselin added. “He was one of those characters that make living on the UWS so special.”
The GoFundMe has covered Joey Gomez’s funeral, but will still be active for awhile to help his wife with past rent and bills due.
“Hearing his daughters and siblings speak at his funeral made it clear how loved he was,” said Beth Wells, another resident of West 94th Street. Eleanor Seepes said, “One can feel lucky knowing someone like that.”