‘Stooping’ free furniture off NYC streets better than ever thanks to virus
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: this spring and summer the saying sounds especially true.
The hotter months have always been the peak times for the Big Apple to move in and out. But standard moves, coupled with home cleanings by those who fled the city’s COVID-19 outbreak, created a roadside gold mine of gems that were spent on taking.
From mid-century furniture to one-off antiques, home decor at the highest level was plentiful – and free – for anyone lucky enough and quick enough to pick it off the concrete. (Not to mention strong and smart enough to drag their prey home.)
As of March, when thrift stores and thrift sellers stayed closed due to the coronavirus, many New Yorkers relied on the informal give-and-take economy known as stooping.
The practice of sharing and snapping discarded freebies has been given a boost by Instagram accounts dedicated to promoting pieces on the sidewalk and ready for harvest, such as StoopingNYC and CurbAlertNYC.
The anonymous Brooklyn duo who run StoopingNYC say the pandemic has resulted in a growing number of followers (now at 46,000 and more), as well as a surge in filings for dump furniture for full dwellings versus one-off finds.
In recent months, the couple has also been moving emails and direct messages from followers submitting photos of items they stumble upon in the street to followers lugging their own goods to the curb.
Angelique Ray (right, sitting) in the armchair she and her roommate Paige Brigham (right, standing) saw on Instagram. They dragged it up a mile and up a few flights of stairs (left) to their apartment.Angelique Ray and Paige Brigham; Annie Wermiel / NY Post
Angelique Ray, a 27-year-old public school teacher, and her roommate Paige Brigham, a 23-year-old speech pathology student, grabbed a leather armchair from Riverside Drive after seeing the photo and the streets on StoopingNYC.
The duo recorded the chair’s 30-block journey to its ascent to the Upper West Side using a jerky bed frame on wheels as a makeshift cart.
Your video was then shared by the account as a “stooping success”.
The lure of the play outweighed the risk of bringing an item of unknown origin into their home during COVID-19. “This chair was a risk, but it’s worth it,” says Brigham.
The roommates who have thoroughly cleaned their new armchair feel good about distracting them from a landfill. “When I was growing up, my mother would bend over a lot,” adds Ray, who is from the East Village. “I didn’t understand why you would bend over furniture if you could only buy furniture. And then, over the past few years, I realized that there are so many great pieces of furniture on display on the street that can still be used. “
Furniture is not a throwaway item for many henchmen, including the anonymous Manhattanite who runs CurbAlertNYC with nearly 16,000 followers. “I’ve been aware of waste and sustainability all my life,” he says. “There’s really no reason to buy furniture when you live in the city.”
Some areas produce more gems than others. “I like to live on the East Side because it’s quiet, but it’s also a strange treasure trove. When people move out, they just throw things away, “says Daina Gigliotti-Dozzi, 34.” Two weeks ago I was bending over a MacBook Air on my street. “
Gigliotti-Dozzi got her vintage desk (right) out of the trash (left). She even found old letters in the drawers. @stoopingnyc / Instagram; Annie Wermiel / NY Post
Gigliotti-Dozzi, who works for an eco-friendly waste disposal company, carefully wipes all parts before entering her two-bedroom apartment – including her antique desk, which she uses every day.
Gigliotti-Dozzi’s desk score is another “stooping success” shared by the same Instagram account that led to his resumption. StoopingNYC publishes before and after photos with the hashtag #stoopingsuccess to show how objects on the street can be given new life.
“The gamification of seeing an article on the site, the personal scavenger hunt, then getting it back and immediately having the satisfaction of being able to republish your success on the site is something that our followers are very excited about.” say the two behind StoopingNYC. “It’s so unique to New York and people just love being a part of New York.”
Gigliotti-Dozzi has also converted an elegant pavement (left) into a side table (right).@ curbalertnyc / Instagram; Annie Wermiel / NY Post
Mel Lopez, 28, and Sarabeth Blum, 31, estimate that around 60 percent of the furniture in their Bed Stuy bedroom is found from the street, while the rest is bought second-hand.
Minimizing their carbon footprint is a big reason why Lopez, a senior creative strategist at The Atlantic, and Blum, a senior content manager at Spotify, tend to bend over.
Plus, many of the items they keep in the landfill are of better quality than their counterparts today.
“I don’t have to buy a brand new side table from West Elm if I can bend over one that is probably better made,” says Blum. Lopez calls her style “Midcentury Street Chic”. One of their recent favorite finds is a custom-made solid wood bookcase that they use to store records. The piece they went to Chelsea to pick up after seeing it on Instagram is signed and dated November 1974.
A shelf found in Chelsea (left) became a panel store in Bed-Stuy (right) for Mel Lopez and Sarabeth Blum, who say about 60 percent of the furniture in their one bedroom home is bent.Mel Lopez
“Everything we bend over is really different and unique because we found it, and there is always a story behind it,” says Blum. “So if we bend down, we have the opportunity to add our own story to these pieces.”
Even before the coronavirus, the couple always carefully cleaned the finds before bringing them in, and also avoided substances that could hide pests such as bedbugs.
Advertising strategist Justin Lucero said the coronavirus stay home order introduced him to the wonders of stooping for the first time.
“There was always something posted during my work, so I never had a chance to get anything,” adds Lucero, 33.
While working from his Williamsburg apartment, Lucero discovered a mid-century love seat upholstered in royal blue leather on StoopingNYC.
Justin Lucero scored a blue love seat off the street at Greenpoint (left) while working from home in nearby Williamsburg. Pup Tenley also likes the new perch (right).@stoopingnyc / Instagram; Brian Zak / NY Post
The post said it was on the side of the road in Greenpoint, just one neighborhood down.
Despite a virtual meeting on the calendar, Lucero grabbed a Citi bike and turned up on the corner to claim the couch just before two other groups of bumpers arrived.
Just in time for the video conference, an Uber and the love seat brought him home.
“There are a lot of great things posted on Instagram,” says Lucero, “but you have to be pretty quick.”