Volume 76, Number 46 | April 11 - 17, 2007

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Above, Mayquer “Mike” Cholotio doing spot cleaning on 77 Bleecker St. Below, Brent Weingard, who has been cleaning windows since he was 19.

Spider-Man with a squeegee

By Lincoln Anderson

With all the new luxury glass buildings sprouting up in Hudson Square, there are a lot more windows to keep sparkling clean. But it’s got to be done right. This has all meant more business for window washers like Brent Weingard of Expert Window Cleaners and his crew of fearless workers.

On a chilly late February morning, a small figure could be seen dangling high above Renwick St. Mayquer “Mike” Cholotio, one of Weingard’s three employees, was halfway up 505 Greenwich St. Apartments in the new 14-story condo go for up to $3.5 million. With that price tag, the occupants demand that their windows be absolutely glistening.

Cholotio, 25, was held only by a rappelling rope and a simple seat known in the business as a “chair.” Swinging quickly across the sheer glass, he resembled a cross between Spider-Man and a water bug skittering on a vertical pond.

Without window ledges for footholds, he used a suction cup on a rope to stabilize himself and get hard-to-reach areas. Sticking out the suction cup, then pulling himself along its taught rope, it looked as if he was strolling with a cane 70 feet in the air.

The job done, Cholotio quickly rappelled to the street commando style. He and Weingard went up to the roof, where they carefully coiled the ropes and stuck them in a barrel.

As they left, the doorman chewed them out a bit, since they’d neglected to use the freight elevator. But they both move nimbly and quickly and hadn’t come close to grazing the passenger elevator’s stainless-steel walls with their barrel.

Asked if he has any fear on the rope, Cholotio, preternaturally poised, just shrugged and, with a steady gaze, said no.

“He can do everything,” Weingard, a Westchester native, said of Cholotio, a Guatemalan native. “A proud Mayan — true American and salt of the earth.”

Older buildings have window frames with bolts into which window washers can hook a belt and then lean out from the window ledge. But not the fancy new glass towers — which require either a scaffold or the more daring chair technique.

Weingard, 50, says that, compared to a conventional scaffold, Cholotio’s chair technique is “gentle on surfaces.” However, he said, “the state” has some questions about it: For safety reasons, they’re not allowed to use the rappelling method above certain height limits.

Actually, much of Weingard’s window cleaning business is done from inside the apartments. Often windows can be dirty on the inside, too, from cooking, for example, he noted.

“People like us because we’re careful, we’re neat,” he said. “We take our shoes off when we go inside the apartments. We specialize in high-end residential, so we know how to be neat.”

Not only high-end but also high-profile. Their roster of Downtown clients reads like a virtual “window-washing styles of the rich and famous.”

There’s James Gandolfini, for starters.

“His windows are hellish, man-killers,” Weingard said. “These huge, heavy double sets of windows that have to be tilted and manipulated simultaneously to get all the sides. When I first went by, I was scratching my head, wondering if or how it could be done and what it would cost. Mr. Gandolfini comes over to me and says, ‘I know, I know, it’s a difficult job.’ I started to explain something and he halted me and said, ‘Whatever it takes, just get it done.’ When Tony Soprano is talking to you with this quiet intensity saying, ‘Whatever it takes, get it done,’ you get it done!”

They’ve rocked on Lenny Kravitz’s glass, too.

Asked what Kravitz was like, Weingard said, “Nice…. He just had a pile of clothes,” motioning to one side, “and a pile of guitars,” motioning to the other.

“E.L. Doctorow at N.Y.U. — he was very nice,” he recalled of the bestselling author and professor. “I washed Silver Towers for many years.”

Over the years, he’s also had a number of celebrity clients in the tony Archive building on Greenwich St. — though, at this point, he doesn’t remember all their names right away if it’s been awhile.

“I used to have one of Charlie’s Angels,” he said. “Jack, Jack…one of the old Angels….”

Kate Jackson?

Right.

“And who is that girl? — beautiful eyes…before she got famous and before she was in…‘A Beautiful Mind’….”

Jennifer Connelly?

Bingo.

“And Monica Lewinsky,” he recalled of another former Archive customer. “Very nice girl. Always has a nice smile.”

More recently, he cleaned the windows of Giselle Bundchen’s Village penthouse apartment overlooking the Hudson River. He recalled an incident from when the Brazilian supermodel was still dating Leonardo DiCaprio:

“She and Leonardo were bike riding one day,” he said. “I was downstairs and these paparazzi were waiting for them to return. She and Leonardo swung in on bikes from different directions like undercover agents.

“Giselle has a good view of Lou Reed’s rooftop where he practices martial arts — he’s very hard working and dedicated. We do his building too and he is very gracious when we have to get on his roof; we schedule so as not to disrupt his sessions.”

Another client, right up the block from Reed, is Joel Grey, of “Cabaret” fame — “a sweetheart,” Weingard said.

“Uta Hagen, who lived right on Washington Square Park, once told me I had artistic hands,” Weingard added of the late theater legend, who was a client. “I should have gone to HB Studio and been discovered,” he quipped.

“Seriously, we make a difference in people’s lives by improving the quality of light that enters living and working spaces,” he said. “Once at Silver Towers on Bleecker St. — N.Y.U. faculty/administrative housing — we were cleaning these very large, dirty windows. I noticed the resident on the phone in the next room talking rather excitedly. Later, she came in as we were finishing and declared: ‘That was my therapist. You know, dirty windows are like a depression. Now that I have clean windows I don’t have to see my therapist for two weeks!’ Soon after that revelation, I raised my rates.”


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