NEW YORK (AP) _ The city's doormen threatened to go on strike Friday in a walkout that could force tens of thousands of apartment dwellers to take their trash out to the curb, carry their own groceries and hail their own cabs.

The building owners and the doormen's union remained far apart on the major issues, including wages, pensions and health care, with the contract set to expire at 12:01 a.m.

``Talks are continuing, but the two sides remain far apart,'' union spokesman Matt Nerzig said Thursday evening.

The union represents 28,000 doormen, porters, elevator operators and superintendents in 3,000 apartment buildings, mostly in Manhattan.

``The rents they're getting today and they can't help us?'' asked doorman Arthur ``Butch'' Souffront, who works at an Upper West Side building where a one-bedroom apartment can rent for about $3,500 a month. Souffront, 40, said he has to moonlight as a locksmith to support his wife and two girls.

Building owners girded for a strike by hiring security guards and issuing identification tags to tenants. Some tenants agreed to pitch in by working garbage, mail and cleaning duty.

``They sent us a letter saying that we have to deal with our recycling and something about the trash,'' said Bandar al-Turkmani, 22, a graduate student at Columbia University. ``That stinks _ literally.''

The last doorman strike in New York City was in 1991, when the union walked off the job for 12 days.

Complaining of rising energy and health care costs, the building owners, represented by the Realty Advisory Board, proposed a wage freeze for the first year of the three-year contract. They also proposed contributions for health insurance of about $1,400 a year per worker, and a switch to 401(k) plans from traditional pensions.

The Service Employees International Union scoffed at the owners' economic concerns, pointing to a booming New York real estate market. The workers sought a 3.5 percent to 4 percent cost-of-living increase and no health insurance contribution.

Carlos Padilla, a 22-year doorman at a co-op building on Riverside Drive, said he loves his job because he enjoys helping people _ walking their pets, watering their plants and delivering their packages. But the 52-year-old father of four said he was prepared to strike to protect his benefits.

``The people in my building, they understand,'' Padilla said. ``They think what we are asking for is fair.''

A strike could have a big effect on businesses that rely on deliveries. A walkout would leave no one in the lobby to receive deliveries or sign for packages.

FreshDirect, an Internet home-delivery grocer, said there was a big run on pizza, bottled water and ground beef over the past few days.

The city's Department for the Aging said it working to make sure that social workers have proper IDs when they make home visits. The department also urged senior citizens who have problems during a strike to call 911 or 311.

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Associated Press Writers Desmond Butler and David B. Caruso contributed to this report.