Super duper: Ridge superintendent breaks barriers and builds bonds

Super duper: Ridge superintendent breaks barriers and builds bonds
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They call her a “super super.”

This Bay Ridge building superintendent is so beloved by her tenants because she doesn’t just maintain their apartments, but also maintains connections with them and takes pride in keeping the building in top shape year-round.

“Sometimes it’s not just work, it’s the relationships you have,” said Cindy Aredini, who has been taking care of the Ridge Boulevard building — and its residents — for more than three decades. “I stop and hear them, I see them in the face, and if they’re willing to talk, I talk. I reach out to them.”

Sometimes tenants will even seek her help with issues completely unrelated to the building, such as when one longtime resident asked Aredini to accompany her to the vet when she had to put down her 9-year-old cat two years ago — which Aredini gladly did, and even helped her find a new cat.

“I was very depressed because I had to put my cat down, and she came with me,” said Karen Pascal. “And then her daughter’s friend’s cat gave birth to kittens, and I got my new cat, Della. Because of that. I still owe her.”

Aredini is also famous — both in the building and around the neighborhood — for how elaborately she decks out the building at Ridge Boulevard and Ovington Avenue for all manner of holidays.

Aredini credits her late mentor and former owner of the building, Catherine Vafias, with teaching her how important decking the halls can be to connecting with her tenants.

“Without Mrs. Vafias, I have no history here,” Aredini said. “She taught me how to do the Christmas decorations. This was her thing.”

Before Vafias passed away in 2006, she was famous for keeping the building festive and well-kept year-round — planting colorful flowers outside as soon as the weather was warm enough and decorating the lobby for holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and — most notably — Christmas, hanging lights and wreaths on the outside of the building and putting up a lavish tree and decorations all over the lobby.

And just like Vafias, Aredini has become known among the residents for keeping up the tradition by pouring her heart and soul into holiday decorating and the building’s year-round upkeep.

“She likes to do the decorations, so it’s a labor of love,” said Judy Rubin. “And in the springtime, she plants the flowers.”

Aredini was born in Skopje — the capital of Macedonia in the Balkans — but spent part of her childhood in New York, where her family owned a restaurant and her father had a job as a building superintendent.

Like many female supers, Aredini said she developed the skillset for the job as a youngster, when she started helping out her father with fix-it jobs at just 9 years old.

“My dad taught me about the building — plumbing, lights, things like that,” she said.

She started as the super at the Ridge Boulevard building in 1987, when she was 25 years old and her friend working in real estate offered her the job.

Aredini said she had no hesitations about entering the male-dominated field — with only a few dozen women among the city’s 3,000 unionized superintendents, according to a 2015 New York Times report — but she was not always received warmly over the course of her career. She frequently encounters maintenance men who were dispatched to the building but cannot believe that it was managed by a woman.

“They’ll say, ‘I’m not your husband, why are you telling me what to do?’ ” said Aredini. “But then they see that I’m right and they’re wrong.”

And she can do most of the work herself, anyway. In her mid-50s, Aredini regularly lugs ladders and mattresses up stairwells, and does all maintenance work — other than plumbing or electric — by herself.

Her niece, who helped her with the Christmas decorations this year, said that she didn’t think it would ever be possible for her to follow in her aunt’s footsteps.

“I don’t think I could do half of what she does every day,” said Ardiana Tahiri. “She’ll sit down with us to eat, and then halfway into the meal, she gets a phone call, and says, ‘I gotta run, somebody in the building needs me.’ ”

Rubin agreed that Aredini is remarkably responsive, and clearly takes a genuine interest in helping her tenants with whatever they need, whenever they need it.

“She’s out front — she’s not hiding, she’s helpful,” Rubin said. “She’s always the first person in an accident, the first person if somebody’s in trouble, the first person to help with the groceries, the first person on the scene, always. She goes above and beyond for every single tenant in this building.”

But for Aredini, it’s all in a day’s work.

“If I can’t cure it, fix it, what am I here for?” she said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Lobbying for Christmas cheer: This year, Aredini continued her annual tradition of decorating the lobby of the Ridge building.
Community News Group / Julianne McShane