In 2003, I met a lady who had watched human body parts tumble onto the street from a trash bag.
We were seated next to each other in the waiting room of an accountant, and I asked her how her day had been. She said, ‘Not great.’ On her way to the accountants, she saw a sanitation worker lift a garbage bag from the curb, ripping the plastic and releasing bloody arms and legs on to the pavement. ‘It was awful,’ she said. ‘There were kids going to school who saw it.’ Since then, I’ve wondered what else New York garbos find on the job. Turns out it’s mostly good stuff.
In 1981, New York Sanitation worker Nelson Molina began collecting things he found on his East Harlem route. Without planning to, Molina amassed over 45,000 items: art, collectables, tech, cowboy hats, you name it. The collection is catalogued and organized on the second floor of the DSNY garage on East 99th Street, and while Nelson retired in 2015, he still comes to the garage routinely to check in on his ‘museum.’
The collection is not open to the public since it’s housed in an active garage, but Molina and filmmaker Nicolas Heller hope to secure proper space with the help of this film. Check out nycstrongest.org for more details.