Alfred Santiago is hard to miss. If you’re part of the local bar scene, you may remember him from the time when, say, you had one too many at Mikie Squared on Washington Street (he’s head of security and manager).
Or maybe you were walking to the Rite Aid on Willow Avenue for some lip balm and got waylaid by hunger pangs. Lucky for you, Santiago’s hot dog stand is right on the corner.
“I’m actually not in the best shape,” Santiago offers.
Here at the New York Sports Club on 14th Street, where these photos were taken, all the men seem to sport a look of envy alongside their workout gear.
At 36, Santiago weighs in at 230 pounds—a decidedly younger and only slightly smaller Schwarzenegger.
“I used to be 210 pounds,” he says, “but I’m going to dress up as Conan the Barbarian at the Key West Fantasy Festival. I want to fit the part.”
So, Santiago has upped his caloric intake to pile on the pounds, after which he will hit the free- weights hard and carve the extra bulk into well-defined muscle.
Santiago wasn’t always a 6:30 a.m., six-day-a-week gym fiend. Twelve years ago, he made the commitment to launch his level of fitness into an entirely new stratosphere, but not for the reasons most men do it.
Twelve years ago, his daughter Elyse was born.
“Everyone has an excuse to work out,” Santiago says. “And most people do it for looks. I just wanted to be able to protect my kids and make sure they’re safe.”
And safe they are, by the look of him. Santiago also has a 15-year-old son, Logan, who helps him man the hot dog stand, and Massimo, only four months old.
Santiago’s entire schedule, including his dawn workout regimen, revolves around his children’s care.
“Boys are afraid to go near Elyse,” he half-joked. “And girls are even a little afraid to go near Logan. I’m okay with that.”
Santiago is also a regular at Union City Boxing Club, which is full of professional fighters who are considerably smaller and leaner than he is. But that, he says, does not necessarily give him an advantage.
“I get beat up a lot,” he laughs. “I’m a professional on the street, but in the ring I get hurt.” He says a guy broke his nose the day before Fight Night at Hoboken Medical, the hospital’s annual fundraiser.
While Santiago grew up in Hoboken, he spent time in Brooklyn before returning to his home town in 1999. The city has changed considerably since he played baseball and basketball with his friends as a kid.
Of course, there’s been the development boom, and there are twice as many bars now as there were then, but he says he enjoys the new atmosphere and is proud to call Hoboken home.
“The best change I’ve seen is that it’s not as wild here as it was growing up,” Santiago says. “It wasn’t always safe to walk around in certain areas after hours, but it’s much safer now. Who’s to say what will happen, but I’m going to stick it out.”—07030