Hundreds of Pez dispensers, old brass doorknobs, family photos and other mementos line tables and walls. New Yorkers trashed it all, but Nelson Molina, a NYC Department of Sanitation worker, collected it all, turning it into a fascinating museum called Treasures in the Trash.
Molina saved tens of thousands of discarded items over a 30-year period. Since workers are not allowed to keep items, he started storing it all in the M11 sanitation garage on East 99th and First Avenue. While not open to the public, StreetEasy designer/photographer Mike Johnson attended a private tour and documented the items.
Molina began storing items in his locker. But he quickly outgrew that space and eventually the entire second floor of the M11 garage become a final resting place for many collected family goods and furnishings, creating an eerie feel of lives long gone.
Items are displayed in hallways, on make-shift shelfs and in locker room areas of the sanitation garage.
Molina collected items along his daily route around Upper Manhattan neighborhoods of Yorkville, Carnegie Hill and East Harlem.
Old brass and glass doorknobs and hardware nod to the age and quality of grand old New York City homes.
Pop culture items such as Pez dispensers and retro keychains span decades.
Old family photos and personal objects are gathered together, evoking an eerie view into someone’s past.
One of the most carefully arranged compositions is this old Hollywood tableau.
The juxtapositions in some of the collections defy chronology or a theme. Instead they rely on the intuitive pairings of the collector himself.
Sense of time, season and space collapse in the M11 garage. Christmas decorations are abutted by action figures.
Recognize these? It’s impossible to walk through the collection without stumbling upon an object or item that you once had.
Plants and natural life seek the little precious sunlight that streams into the M11 garage.
The M11 garage is not just a collection of found objects, but an active garage and locker room for sanitation workers. The makeshift gym on the second floor is a reminder of the sanitation workers’ activity and presence.
Although Molina retired in 2014, he still returns to the garage multiple times a week to tend to his meticulously curated collection.