Elevator operator thwarts would be thief
by Daniel P. Bader
It’s been a rough year for residents of 765 Riverside Dr.
In the last year one resident was raped and mugged and the co-op building caught fire twice. It’s very likely that a burglary would have been added to that list if not for freight elevator operator Carlos Nieves, who has worked at the six-story building three days a week for the last year.
On Wed., Dec. 2 a resident on the ground floor told Nieves, 43, that someone had knocked on her door suspiciously. From his bench in front of the elevator he saw a short, stocky man in street clothes knocking at another door.
Nieves confronted him. “I’m the cable guy,” Nieves said the stranger told him.
“I asked him for I.D.,” Nieves said. “He said: ‘It’s out in the van.’ I told him to go get it.”
At that point, if “the cable guy” had just left, Nieves would have probably forgotten about the encounter. However the would-be burglar was persistent.
After showing him the door, Nieves, a tall barrel-chested, out of work long-haul trucker from the Bronx, returned to his bench. Eventually his gaze drifted to the right to a secondary entrance near the mailboxes.
“I see somebody’s legs hanging from the fire escape,” Nieves recalled.
The elevator operator went out to investigate and pulled the man off the fire escape.
Again, the man told him he’s the cable guy.
“You can’t go through the window,” Nieves told him, keeping his distance. Then, in a blink of an eye, the intruder was gone.
“The guy starts running up the hill,” Nieves said.
It might have been over then, but Nieves ran after him – up W. 157th Street towards Broadway. Luckily the resident who had told Nieves about the strange knocks had called the police and a cruiser from the 33rd Police Precinct was approaching.
Nieves, who was falling behind the speedy intruder, shouted to the police, who gave pursuit, apprehending the suspect by hitting him with a car to knock him down.
“I couldn’t even breathe,” said Nieves, a father of four. “[The police] drove me back to the building.”
Nieves testified against the man at the grand jury hearing and learned a little more about who he had caught.
“He had a rap sheet from here to the Bronx,” Nieves said.
Video surveillance, installed after the rape this summer, shows the “cable guy” had originally entered the building by slipping through the open door behind a tenant.
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.