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One Family’s Brooklyn Junk is Another’s NYC Treasure by Matt Levy

NYC Story

Every once in a few decades, us Levys realize the need for a collective space clearing. This generally means we straighten the living room. Not today. Today was a banner day. Today we were clearing out (half of) the basement.

This basement isn’t any old basement. Well, it is 106 years old – Mark owns a beautiful Victorian house built in 1904 in a gorgeous neighborhood called Ditmas Park, right in the heart of Flatbush. There is the LEVYSHQ in the ground floor office, 6 bedrooms, 4 of which are rented out to tenants, and all the general house chaos you’d expect from the Levys. As tenants move out, they leave stuff. Some of it is old, like Mark’s camping gear from his days as a CubMaster. Some of it’s interesting like the unicycle courtesy of Matt Chapman, Clown Without Borders. But all of it is junk.

Junk wood furniture, junk scraps of cedar, junk piles of wiring, 3 junk air conditioners, 5 junk metal frame hiking backpacks with broken straps, a half-dozen junked piles of cross-country skis, junk kitchen utilities, a few garbage cans worth of junk scrap metal. Junk junk junk. As we were leaving it on the side of the house, prepped for Saturday’s bulk trash pickup, a Mexican man in rust-stained jeans hops out of a dark blue van and asks us, in trying English,

“You getting rid these things? Okay, take metal?”

Sure it was okay to take metal! I said, “No problem, amigo.” “Gracias” came his reply, and then his wifely, or partner, or friend or sister, whichever, pulled open the bay doors of the van and started to toss in as much metal as we had lying around, which was a lot.

Jonah comes around the corner, and says to me with widening eyes, “You mean, they want all of the metal!? Dios Mio!” and we start helping this couple pack their van with all our scrap junk. Heaps and piles of the stuff. Heavy air conditioners and desk tops, a drafting table, the skis, the skiing poles, all of it goes into the van.

While the man heads down to the basement to see what else he can score, I approach the woman with a flimsy aluminum serving tray.

“Tambien?” I ask. “Si!” she replies, and chucks it into the van.

By the time they drive off, they have approximately 3-500 lbs of scrap metal in their van, at an estimated value of $200, depending on the market rate. And our trash load is lighter, and there’s less to drag to the curb Saturday AM. And it’s another reason that we LOVE living in Brooklyn, NYC.

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