Like most parking lot attendants, Juan Rodriguez knows how tantalizing and frustrating it can be to drive a luxury car, only to have to surrender it all too quickly for a pair of crumpled dollars.
But now, after 20 years of anonymous toil for a legion of well-heeled motorists near the United Nations, the Colombian-born Ozone Park resident can sit in his own heated leather seat.
Sunday, New York Lottery authorities declared him the winner of the largest jackpot ever won in the state, $149 million. The chances of winning the Mega Millions jackpot were 135 million to one.
"I want to say thank God! I love him," Rodriguez, 49, said, shy and visibly nervous behind a pair of blue-framed sunglasses before a bank of a dozen television cameras outside the Turtle Bay convenience store where he bought the ticket Friday.
Rodriguez said he was eying a Volvo.
The money couldn't have come at a better time. Two days before he bought the ticket, a mound of credit card debt prompted him to declare bankruptcy. Also, his first grandchild is due in February.
"His money was not enough," said his brother-in-law, Dennis Herrera. "He said, 'Brother, I don't have money to pay the rent.'"
Friday, Rodriguez bought a Quick Pick ticket at S& N News on Second Avenue between 48th and 49th streets, two doors down from the parking lot.
The next morning, he learned the store had sold the lucky ticket. He showed his stub to the clerk, who told Rodriguez that he was rich, rich enough to own a few of those BMWs he's parked.
"He said 'Don't play with me,'" the clerk, Nayeem Khaja, recalled Sunday. "I said, 'No, I'm not playing you. You're the sole winner.'"
After finding out that he had won the lottery, Rodriguez called his wife, Iris, a former home health care aide, and daughter, Katty, 17, a psychology student at Touro College who is the couple's only child.
Rodriguez, who hasn't yet quit his job, opted to take a lump payment of $88.5 million before taxes. Aside from the Volvo, and maybe a Jaguar for Iris, the family said they're keen for their own house and a vacation in Orlando, where they have relatives.
Katty's unborn child, a girl, also is expected to benefit from the windfall.
"I can take her to a good high school," Katty Rodriguez said. "She could go to a good college. I could give her the things that I never had."