The pandemic is producing a golden age of stooping

In New York City, it's common to walk down the sidewalk and see pristine furniture being thrown out. People get rid of stuff a lot, because apartment-space is tight. If you buy something new and it takes up any space, you gotta chuck out something of equivalent size. It's like living on the International Space Station.

Now it seems the pandemic has triggered a new boom in people chucking out top-notch furnishings. Why? The New York Times wrote a story on the trend, and figures it's a combo of people fleeing the city, plus extra-industrial spring cleaning by those who are staying put. If you're suddenly forced to spend all your time in your apartment — with no backyard or front yard to escape to — you might decide to freshen the place up.

Some Instagram accounts have cropped up to document the free stuff being given away. There's @nycfreeatthecurb, run by Sonia Izak and P.J. Gach and @stoopinginqueens, run by Jessica Wolff.

As the Times writes:

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it was chandeliers, a Tiffany bracelet and a vintage velvet chair with silver-colored rams' heads. In Jackson Heights in Queens, it was a Korean wedding chest, and in Park Slope in Brooklyn, a giant stiletto chair with a purple zebra pattern.

All of these, remarkably, were free.

They were just a few of the items that have been found discarded on the stoops or streets of New York City over the past year, a byproduct of the pandemic that has amounted to such an abundance of valuable trash that some are calling it "The Golden Age of Free Stuff." [snip]

The velvet chair with rams' heads on the Upper East Side was in fairly good condition; similar ones are selling online for over $1,000. A Japanese-style four-panel screen showing red-crested cranes was spotted in front of the United Nations headquarters, prompting speculation that it had belonged to a diplomat. [snip]

A piano made of dark wood tossed out in Alphabet City in Manhattan. A bowling ball (with a leather case) available in Clinton Hill in Brooklyn. A terrifying-looking dollhouse and an equally nightmare-inducing portrait of a family of cats were up for grabs on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One resident even left a pet turtle out on their stoop. (It has since found a new home.)

I messaged P.J. Gach to get permission to use photos from @nycfreeatthecurb, and she rang me up, so we chatted about the phenomenon. She agreed that people leaving NYC were likely a cause of some of this new rogue wave of cast-aside furnishings.

"People are leaving!" she said. "I was talking to a porter for a building and he said people had moved out and literally left all their furniture behind. And thrift shops aren't picking stuff up any more in the pandemic." The other element prompting so much furniture-tossing is that a nontrivial chunk of younger people fleeing New York, Gach notes, are going to live with their parents, so there's no room for them to bring along their old NYC furnishings anyway.

Gach said she herself has been a big fan of stooping in NYC for years. Almost twenty years ago she was on a first date in the East Village when she spotted a pristine Ikea chair "with ivory fabric, perfect for my bedroom", sitting discarded on the sidewalk. She grabbed it and carried it with her all night long.

"The chair went with me on the date," she laughs. Indeed, her partner for the evening turned out to be a bad fit for her; the chair, in contrast, was perfect, and she used it for years. "I had a lot better relationship with that chair than with my date."

I just took a quick survey of stuff in my Brooklyn home that I grabbed off stoops, and it currently includes a fantastic-quality black hoodie, a lamp, a restaurant-style metal rack, and a vintage 1950s-era elementary-school desk.

Some pics from @nycfreeatthecurb, reprinted here with permission from Gach …