The Man, the Myth, the Legend
Remembering NYC elevator man Kenny Lau
by Michelle Gallego
On August 21, the world lost a talented, bright and kind-hearted human being. He was a self-taught engineer and a brilliant designer who pioneered unique systems that helped evolve the elevator industry worldwide. The unprecedented loss of this extraordinary individual altered the future trajectory of elevators at a global level. This unique mastermind was Kenny Lau.
Lau was a humble and innovative man, selfless to the core. He was born in Hong Kong in November 1963. Growing up with one brother and two sisters, his heart was full of love and compassion from a very young age. After school, he would often stop by the park to feed and care for small animals. He was a joyful, smart and energetic child, full of imagination and curiosity, which he often expressed by dismantling broken appliances in his home to discover how they worked. He was a natural problem-solver, assessing their defects and repairing them, ultimately creating new and improved appliances.
His hunger for knowledge quickly transferred into a passion for fixing elevators. As a teenager, he began working in the elevator industry as a technician apprentice in Hong Kong until 1983, when he immigrated to the U.S. Arriving with limited English and zero familiarity with the American elevator industry, he was resigned to work as a delivery man at a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, NY. He used any free time to take classes at the local community college. Nevertheless, his fascination with elevators never dwindled, and it was only a matter of time before his tenacious character led him to apply for a job at Century Elevator, in spite of his continued language barrier. He was willing to accept any position at any wage in order to enter his dream career field. With his remarkable performance and dedication, it did not take long for the owner of the company to notice his invaluable merit. He quickly became the “go-to technician,” eventually receiving a promotion to the company’s head of service.
After countless years of hard work and unparalleled expertise, his no-nonsense mindset allowed his ingenuity to flourish into an endless pursuit of excellence. From the basement of a house in Queens, NY, in March of 2003, he established his own elevator service company, Asiana Elevator Maintenance LLC, along with his friend and business partner, Jorge Gallego. The company quickly expanded with the addition of close friend Steven Huang and, in July 2004, they changed the name to AC Elevator Inc., which it has since been known.
Lau led by example and with a friendly demeanor. He was well-respected, not just for his prowess, but, more importantly, for his willingness to share his wisdom with everyone, regardless of whether they were a technician, manufacturer, engineer or building owner.
Despite building the business for more than 20 years, Lau’s most cherished accomplishment was being a devoted father to his daughter and son. His children’s happiness was his top priority. He taught them to follow their dreams, never give up and strive for greatness. He bestowed upon them not only his work ethic and his grit when times got tough but also his heart of gold and his love for his fellow man. He taught them to find the good in everyone because, in his eyes, everyone deserved an opportunity, regardless of their past.
Lau led by example and with a friendly demeanor. He was well-respected, not just for his prowess, but, more importantly, for his willingness to share his wisdom with everyone, regardless of whether they were a technician, manufacturer, engineer or building owner. It did not matter who you were or what you needed help with, he was always willing to help in any way he could. Those who had the honor of working with Lau understood his days consisted of 36 hours of work. If you had the privilege of learning from him, you knew not to blink or he might be off tackling another task by the time you opened your eyes again. He was a mentor to countless, a teacher to all he encountered and an inspirational boss to each of his employees. The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Kenny Lau.
Special thanks to Kenny Lau’s sisters, Annie and Denise; business partner and friend Jorge Gallego and close friend Steven Huang for providing information for this piece.