Protecting the Vulnerable in a Public Bathroom

Make text smaller Make text larger


Deep in the depths of the booming bus station in Times Square, Cynthia Gonzales cleans, supervises and, most of all, protects the bathrooms on her watch. During her shift, as matron at Port Authority, Gonzales sees her share of wayward characters.

"I have one of the biggest bathrooms in the building," the Trinidadian native said. "Some of the people I have to deal with, they aren't so good."

One tough situation she remembers dealing with was an older, homeless woman who, like many down-and-out people in that area, decided the bathroom was her private domain. The woman's leg became so badly infected that Gonzales finally had to call someone to take her away. That wasn't until after the woman attacked the matron. In the end, the leg was amputated and the woman was gone from Gonzales' life. But others have taken her place in one way or another.

The reason Gonzales won the building workers award is because she actually saved another woman's life. Not many people can say that, and Gonzales does so reservedly, with reluctance. The situation involved a sex offender coming after a young woman in the bathroom she attended. It's an ongoing case and she doesn't want to talk about it, nor did she want her photo to be published. She doesn't want to be associated with the incident too much, and she thinks what she did is just part of the job-a job Gonzales continues to do, as she has done there for over 20 years, through pure strength and will.

"I really enjoy what I do," she said over the phone. "I look at myself as a valuable employee."

When she isn't lording over the facilities, she spends a lot of time at home with her family, including her 26-year-old son. As for her age, Gonzales wishes it to remain a mystery, but she is spry enough to work stints in acting into her schedule. Pursuing the silver screen as a hobby, she has appeared as an extra in numerous films and television shows, including Law and Order.

"I like dressing up and the elegance of being an extra," she said. "And I like being out there in the public eye."

Funny enough, Gonzales hasn't seen a single episode, film or even a clip of any of the pieces she has been in. "I'm just too busy," she said. Instead of watching herself, she catches a football game, especially the Baltimore Ravens; or enjoys any basketball game, no matter who is playing. Sometimes she sews her own clothes, and the rest of her free time goes to the union and her efforts to organize and recruit new members.

While Gonzales remains satisfied with her work, the one thing she wishes is that after 20-plus years, she could finally get Sundays off to go to church.

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters