José Echevarria has come to the rescue of many burst pipes, clogged toilets and backed-up bathtubs.
As a plumber in the Environmental Services Department at New Community, Echevarria’s role is not that different from a dentist: you don’t know anything is wrong until you have to call him and when you do, it’s an emergency.
Recently, Echevarria received a 5 a.m. phone call alerting him to a ruptured pipe in one of New Community’s senior buildings. He leapt out of bed and quickly arrived on the scene of a flooded boiler room.
“If they have an emergency, I go help them right away. That’s how I am. I never say ‘no’ to a job,” he said.
During the winter, when pipes are most at risk of freezing and bursting, Echevarria said he stayed at work until nearly midnight on some nights to finish a job.
“Sometimes I spend more time here than my house,” he said with a laugh.
With an easy-going personality, Echevarria takes each job seriously but always does so with a pleasant demeanor in spite of dealing with potentially stressful situations. As a plumber, he’s seen everything clog pipes, from rags to wigs.
Mozella Collins, a New Community Commons Family resident, said that Echevarria has handled several work orders at her residence and fixed recurring issues with her toilet.
“He always comes. He comes to my rescue,” said Collins, who has known Echevarria for nearly six years.
His expertise also extends beyond plumbing. The son of a mechanic, Echevarria, 33, began watching and learning how to repair cars at age 9. His side hobby has turned into a real asset at New Community, where, in addition to plumbing, Echevarria handles vehicle repairs ranging from personal cars to heavy machinery such as backhoes and frontloaders. He has his own mechanic’s tool set but sometimes he’ll drop by the NCC
Automotive Training Center on West Bigelow Street to borrow a tool. In turn, the mechanics there will sometimes draw on Echevarria’s expertise and ask his advice on a repair. During the winter, Echevarria operates the snow plow to ensure that both staff and residents have safe access to NCC properties.
“Nothing is beyond his reach,” Wayne Gravesande, Director of Environmental Services said, noting that Echevarria is the type of employee who goes the extra mile. “He will lend a hand.”
Born in Puerto Rico, Echevarria moved to New York in 1996. He was hired by a construction company, where he learned the ins and outs of residential and commercial plumbing from 2000 to 2007. He said he enrolled at a trade school in Brooklyn and “learned everything” in one year, taking classes at night and working during the day. In 2007, the owner of the construction company Echevarria was working for told his 15 employees that he was retiring and closing his business.
However his boss had one last job for Echevarria: a round-trip plane ticket to his out-of-state retirement home where he asked Echevarria to personally install the plumbing for the eight-bedroom mansion and two-bedroom guest house. Echevarria agreed.
After a two-year stint at another plumbing and heating company, Echevarria began working at NCC in June of 2009. He has a daughter, Jomarys, 6, and son, Jayden, 2, and lives with his longtime partner, Marilyn, in Elizabeth.
In his free time, Echevarria roots for his favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, or fishes off the pier at Keyport or at Jamaica Bay in Queens. He also enjoys riding roller coasters at Six Flags, where he holds a season pass.