A New York City Sanitation Department located in the heart of Manhattan is unlike any other in the country. The two-story building housing the sanitation trucks and other equipment has been transformed into a makeshift art gallery stocked with paintings, sports memorabilia, sculptures and other works of art. The kicker is that all the items were collected along the curbside of New York City streets.
New York sanitation workers encounter more that just garbage bags filled with food scraps and junk on their daily routes, they also occasionally come across beautiful paintings, posters and photographs. According to the New York Times, workers at the 99th street Sanitation Department between First and Second Avenues have found four electric guitars, painting of Winston Churchill, antiques and even an MBA diploma from Harvard.
The art takes up most of the second floor of the sanitation building. The collection consists of art collected over the past 20 years. Nelson Molina, a New York sanitation worker since 1981, started it all. He began collecting items along his route and decorating his locker area back at the sanitation building. Needless to say, the collection ballooned into much more than a few wall decorations.
Today, other sanitation workers contribute to the art gallery collection by keeping an eye out for hidden treasures in the trash. Molina estimates the size of the collection to be about 1,000 items. He has an eye for good design.
Molina stated, “It doesn’t matter what it is. As long as it’s cool, I can hang it up and I’ve got a place for it. That’s why I tell the guys, just bring it in and I’ll decide if I can hang it.”
City policy prohibits sanitation workers from keeping items found in the trash for personal use. However, since Molina has the items on display for others to see, the rule doesn’t apply in this case.
This is just another excellent example of turning trash into treasure. Repurposing junk into works of art is a great way to reduce the amount of trash reaching landfills.