John Canetti of West Milford renovating an elevator in a 14-story office building at 100 Hamilton Plaza in Paterson. ‘You have to have a logical mind. Be able to analyze a job. And you can’t be afraid of heights,’ he says.
How long on the job?: 37 years, the last eight of those with Liberty Elevator.

How he got the job: “My dad was in the business. He would always say to me, ‘Johnny, you want to be an elevator man?’ I’d be like ‘Yeah, Dad!’ and he’d say ‘What are you, nuts?’ ”

What he does: “I’m in modernization. I go into a building that’s been up for 30 years, where the elevators have just been beat to hell, and take them apart and replace every single part we can – the door operating mechanisms, the wiring.”

What makes a good elevator repairman?: “You have to have a logical mind. Be able to analyze a job. And you can’t be afraid of heights.”

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Training: He is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local 1. The union has a four-year apprenticeship program with eight hours of classes a week and final exams that must be passed before apprentices can advance to journeymen.

Salary range: About $40,000 to start, but the average range is $80,000 to $100,000, and experienced repairmen willing to work overtime can make $125,000 or more in the New York/New Jersey area.

What he likes best about the job: “When you do a modernization in an older building, the elevators have been so abused, and the service of the elevator is absolutely horrendous. People wait for the elevator for five, six minutes. By the time we get done upgrading it, the performance of the whole system is tenfold better.”

How dangerous is it?: “Probably the most hazardous part of this business is something coming down the shaft and hitting you. The last job I did we were working in the shaft and they had electricians working upstairs and all of a sudden we hear drilling upstairs. What’s going on? The next thing a piece of concrete comes down the shaft.”

Question he gets asked all the time: “How long can we breathe in there if the elevator gets stuck? People think they’re going to run out of air.”

What he tells them: “You can breathe as long as you need to. The elevator shafts are not sealed. There’s plenty of air circulating at all times.”

Other question he gets asked all the time: “Do you work for Otis? As if that is the only elevator company.”