amNewYork hawker Andres Moronta Lara, 47, is supposed to be on the job at 5 a.m. "But I come at four," he said, "to get ahead of the game."
"The game" includes handing out 1,100 to 1,200 copies of amNewYork each morning to the tidal wave of commuters gushing out of the Seventh Avenue mouth of Penn Station. Moronta Lara, who approaches what he describes as a "really fun job" with the gusto of an opera singer and the meticulousness of a CPA, is one of 170 promoters who contribute to the cacophonous din of the city, one of the many people clamoring for your attention.
"Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! Get $150 off when you join the JCC Health Club!" Moronta Lara trumpeted recently, placing papers into outstretched hands.
Moronta Lara came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as an adolescent and went to a college prep program at Boricua College "but I never got my GED," he said, because the urgency of earning an income trumped his plans for an education. "I had to work two jobs, like I do now."
At 3:10 a.m., there are no hawkers offering Moronta Lara any papers when he leaves the home he shares with his mother in the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx to take the D train downtown.
Moronta Lara is respected by both peers and supervisors and "exemplifies the heart and soul of our organization," according to amNY circulation director Bill Praz.
In his off-hours, Moronta Lara is a trophy-winning domino player and an enthusiast of Vin Diesel movies who fell out of love with the Yankees years ago. He could listen to Whitney Houston songs all day if he were permitted to wear headphones while distributing papers, but he is not, so he does not.
"I always follow the rules," he said, citing a willingness to do so as a key to professional longevity. He takes pride in his appearance ("You have to be representable!") and enjoys being a cog in the massive news machine of the nation's largest city. "This job definitely keeps you informed!" confided Moronta Lara, an admirer of the current president.
He likes placing amNY directly into the hands of news-hungry commuters ("Some of them don't know it's free!") but his countless interpersonal interactions each morning are not all that, well, personal. "People really are in a rush," in the mornings, said Moronta Lara, who knocks off about 10 a.m. "In the rush hour, they're flying!"