New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, September 05, 2008

Property Owner

On April 5th, 2007, I posted Caravan of Dreams, showing a man wheeling a mattress and couch down a busy Village street. But I should have saved that title for today's posting, because this is what I was really searching for when I used the word caravan. I have seen these processions of trash before, but they are not an everyday occurrence and my last attempt to photograph one with a small point and shoot camera was met with an angry, hostile outburst by the homeless owner - essentially accusing me of exploitation. So I refrained at that time. The indignant attitude of those on the fringes of NYC may come as a surprise to some, but this is typical New York Style - pride can been seen at every strata of local society. Although homelessness is not a crime per se, many of the activities of the homeless are, frequently necessitated by the lifestyle. The rights of the homeless and the legality of their activities is the subject of endless debate.
Last night I witnessed the caravan in the photo on Washington Square North (the owner can be seen sleeping on the left near the milk crate). See closeup photo here. Early this morning he was on the move again.
There is an apparent element of lunacy here - acquiring and moving mountains of what appears to be trash. Plus, tending to this cache is a full time job. Belongings are affixed typically to shopping or hamper carts. These wagon trains of carts ala trash are then moved incrementally and sequentially - a tedious job. But then, work can be therapeutic. And much of the booty are bottles to be recycled for cash. Perhaps this monumental nomadic enterprise is exactly what keeps their owners sane - giving their life meaning and making them feel like members of New York society with real property ownership (frequently overnighting in the best of neighborhoods). On the other hand, I'm still just a renter ...

6 comments:

khalid said...

I remember when I used to live in the Bronx there was an old White lady, must be about a century old, who used to collect trash in the Morris Park area. I once talked to her. She sounded quite sane. And she had a crisp Bostonian accent. I wonder if she's still there. Also you'd be surprised to know that many of these homeless people do have a home, in one of the several abandoned subway stations in Manhattan

An Honest Man said...

When I first saw the photo, I thought there was a female in a long skirt bending over the first 'wagon'.

Hilda said...

Do they actually sell the trash they (painstakingly) collect or is it just hoarded?

Anonymous said...

Well put. Great post.

Writing from San Francisco where we see the exact same process. Somehow interesting.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for a long time; and this is one of my favorite photos and commentaries from you. Fantastic job capturing this.

- Angela

Calypso Bay said...

That's scary to think how long that would have taken

Maybe the city/state govt. should employ them and pay them a wage?