It may be hard to find a more perfect embodiment of the axiom “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” than New York City sanitation worker Nelson Molina’s collection. Tucked in the far corner of an otherwise elegant neighborhood, on 99th Street between First and Second Avenues, lives one of the Sanitation Department’s garages. Dark and naturally dingy, it’s a place busy and polished New Yorkers would typically pass by without a second glance. However, if you did walk into the nondescript building, past the musty garbage trucks and up the rusty staircase to the second floor, you would find a place you could have never imagined. “Treasure in the Trash by Nelson Molina” a sign announces in a wonderfully spacious room exploding in a riot of objects –paintings, posters and photographs hung neatly on every wall, colorful bric-a-brac lining every corner.
This incredible scavenged art gallery represents over 20 years of work for the 58-year-old native New Yorker. Molina began picking up discarded bits and baubles on the city streets in 1981, when he first joined the Sanitation Department, to enliven his corner of the garage locker room. Soon, other sanitation workers on his route began to contribute pieces. As his fame grew, workers across the city started to bring him interesting objects rescued from the refuse. Building superintendents would put aside items for him. Today, Molina estimates his collection is 1000 pieces large and still growing. Other workers are encouraged to bring him items but only Molina decides which can be included. He curates his collection carefully but with much goodwill and no elitism. “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,” Mr. Molina says. Learn more about Molina and his collection in the original story in the New York Times.