During the ongoing pandemic, many New Yorkers have decided to move outside the city. This is occurring on a large scale as hotels help the homeless by converting these now empty rooms into shelter spaces. This photo essay works to reveal the vast socio-economic disparities throughout New York City and is a statement of the need for economic reform in the city. It also highlights the potential of second-hand “shopping” as the movement in favor of sustainable living grows and alerts those in the NYC area in need of new furniture. There are even Instagram accounts such as Stooping NYC (@stoopingnyc) to alert New Yorkers about the amazing, high-quality items being thrown out as people leave the city.
Bushwick resident Ellie Bonz (she/her) guards the moving van as her parents move some of their furniture from the Upper West Side to their new home outside of the city. In the process of moving, she states “I left stuff out on the street, two full bags of clothes, too … I thought it would be easier to put on the street [rather than bring to a shelter or thrift] and fingers crossed that someone takes it. One person came along and took a whole bag and another person took the other in like fifteen minutes. They probably thought they could sell them. A side hustle would be nice right now.”
Moving trucks line up along an Upper West Side street. In response to COVID-19’s impact on NYC, many wealthy Manhattanites are moving to their second homes outside the city and leaving many things behind. While some of their valuables are packed into moving vans, much is left to the trash.
Mover Shawn Vennings (he/him) moves furniture from an apartment on West 80th Street to Canada. He started working as a mover in the beginning of the pandemic and has made a lot of money in the business to support his newborn child. He explains the reason he’s found success as a mover: “It’s a great business to be in right now. Nobody wants to be in the city anymore … they think that the city is overpopulated, full of people who aren’t taking care of themselves. So they all move out, get rid of their stuff, call us, and we get the moving job done.”
A lounge chair in good condition sits on the street by trash bags in SoHo to be taken to a landfill. Each year, New York’s residents, institutions and businesses produce eight million tons of municipal solid waste (excluding sewage sludge, dredge spoils and construction and demolition debris). At the same time, in August 2020, there were 57,660 homeless people, including 12,666 homeless families with 19,006 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
SJU Student Alexandra Kraus [left] and Puerto Rican-native and now-retired New Yorker Ivan Figueroa [right] discuss the high-quality furniture being thrown away as a fellow New Yorker searches through the trash behind them. Figueroa, who now lives in SoHo, states “I see beautiful furniture, I mean beautiful furniture that could go in houses, to people who need it, thrown away in front here. They could donate it to shelters. Other people do grab it, but what they leave behind I see the garbage take away. Sometimes I wait in the lobby for people to throw away things, I go take it and then I find out someone needs it and I can give it to them. The other day I saw a $3 thousand dollar sofa. Beautiful. Some people are just selfish.”
SJU University student Alexandra Kraus carries white shelving from the trash outside a Manhattan apartment. In the wake of many moving out of the city due to the effects of COVID-19, students like Kraus have come back to the city to take advantage of the quality future thrown out along the NYC streets. Although Kraus has benefitted from stooping, she states that she “would prefer if [people] would donate these items instead of throw them in the trash and fill up our landfills … With COVID, I make sure to wipe down my items and people have to be careful of that, but the things have been helping me out with my living situation.” She also has been using @stoopingNYC on Instagram to find good deals on the streets around the city.
Homeless New Yorker Kristina Uspenskai poses for a photo after searching through the trash for quality items that could be resold or donated. “I’ve seen an increase of quality things being thrown out … It’s sad because many of the things they could give to somebody … I find a lot of antique things, vintage things, you know, things you could donate or sell to make a profit.” She has turned the trash into her business, often selling to antique shops and second-hand stores.