Hanging high with Philadelphia window washers [photos]

    Five years ago, Pedro Smith worked in the retail business with his two feet firmly on the ground. Now his job takes him to higher ground, sometimes 945 feet in the air cleaning windows on the outside of a skyscraper in Philadelphia called One Liberty Place.

    “There are the ground guys and the guys that work with a chair and ropes. They are called ‘hangers,'” said the 30-year-old, who is a lead man for Jenkintown Building Services, the largest window-cleaning firm in the tri-state region. At first he worked on the ground for a while and then started cleaning the glass at Lincoln Financial Field. But he says his first major window cleaning job was at the top of the 46-story Independence Blue Cross Building on Market Street. He speaks with confidence and conviction when he says he feels comfortable no matter what building he works on always making sure harnesses and rigging are secure. He mentions having trust in the people that are working with you.

    As he finished working on a 15-story building called The Arch across from the Comcast Center, the conversation turned to the heat wave that has blanketed most of the country for the last week.

    “When we are up there we watch out for each other. We make sure we start early, stay hydrated and work as much as possible around the sun.”

    Smith said he is thankful for the opportunity to work for the Jenkintown company, which is owned by Marty Tuzman, whose father started the business in 1960. Tuzman started cleaning windows at 10 years old and eventually took over the business from his father in 1981 when it was a two-man company. Today, Tuzman employs 60 full-time window cleaners and services the majority of Philadelphia’s skyscrapers, hospitals, hotels, universities and entertainment venues celebrating 80 years of quality and integrity in the region.

    “Our guys love being visible and scaling the architecture. Sort of modern day King Kong’s wiping the grime off and tackling these monster building . . . wrestling the architecture, really,” says Tuzman.

    Tuzman’s philosophy is this: “If eyes are the windows of the soul, then, as I see it, windows are the soul of the city.” He continues by saying, “Over time I have felt that windows, reflection, cleanliness and care for the city, makes a great statement about who we are, and the pride we take in our spaces. I see Philly transforming. That is our job to help with transforming an old image of Philthy-delphia.”

    Smith reflects on the time he literally found himself in character as he dressed up as Spiderman and repelled down the side of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia stopping in front of windows mimicking hand moves and gestures of “Spidey” as children gathered with parents and relatives to watch their hero.

    “It gave them a reason to take their minds off why they were there,” said Smith. “It was good to see them smile.”

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