Hidden inside a Manhattan sanitation garage is one of the city's more unusual galleries. NY1's Ruschell Boone recently got a rare look inside with the man who started it all.
They really say one man's trash is another man's treasure.
These gems were garbage at one point, tossed in the trash along Nelson Molina's sanitation route in the Upper East Side and Harlem. Thinking they were too good to throw away, he began saving them at the 99th Street sanitation garage.
Molina has accumulated over 50,000 items in 32 years. First in a tiny work room and then in an unused space on the second floor, maintaining the collection even after he retired two years ago. It's an urban archeologist's dream: Many items are rare - some, relics of a time gone by like an 8mm silent movie projector and film.
"It actually works. Now this is really cool. Oh yeah. I really like this. Yeah I have about six or seven projectors. Sixteen millimeter and eight millimeter," Molina noted.
There are markers of historic events.
"That was the marathon that never happened. So that's one of the posters there," Molina said.
And some really odd things.
City rules prevent sanitation workers from taking items from the trash for personal use, but the collection was stored on city property so Molina got a pass. The Treasures in the Trash Museum is not open to the public, except for Molina's occasional department-approved tours. But interest has been growing as word gets around.
"We started with 1 tour every October once a year then we started getting more popular then we started doing 2 or 3 a year. Now we do 15 or 20 a year," Molina said.
Picking from the garbage is a hobby Molina says began at nine years old.
"I know that people would be throwing out their old toys because they would be getting new ones for Christmas so I would just go out," Molina recalled.
Molina doesn't just store the items, sometimes he researches them, even hunting down a former owner on occassion to learn a piece's back story.
Although the museum has become popular, its future is uncertain.
"This garage is going to be moving I think in 2019. It's going to be moving to 127/128th Street between second and third and they don't have a space for the museum," Molina noted.
Molina and other sanitation workers are lobbying the city to save it. In the meantime, the sanitation man-turned-curator will watch over these unusual treasures.