We were so naive. One day, when I was in college, a roommate said he had learned something incredibly invaluable: the city streets were a virtual bazaar of quality goods on the sidewalks at night before bulk trash collection days. The explanation was that there were people of enormous wealth in areas like the Upper East Side, who, due to whimsy and boredom, put out quality items they no longer fancied. And all we had to do was know the collection days and scavenge the streets the night before.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Do you think that expensive, high quality merchandise would be 1) thrown out and 2) survive on the sidewalks of New York City for more than one second? Obviously this merchandise would be given away to friends, family, sold at auction or to dealers, or donated to charity. Very little of real value makes it to the streets.
That's why we have auctions houses, used merchandise dealers and flea markets.
In a way, flea markets in New York City are redundant - the city itself is a virtual open air bazaar. Perhaps that is why these places can be easily overlooked, as well as why I have never been through the NoHo market at 688 Broadway, even though it is located a stone's throw from my home and I have passed it thousands of times.
Despite soaring real estate in the city, permanent open air and indoor flea markets still exist, even in Manhattan. You can find every spin imaginable as far merchandise goes - used, antique, new, arts and crafts. Remarkably, the NoHo market sits in an open lot in prime real estate territory, flanked by large buildings on either side.
The huge city population provides for the seemingly endless array of goods available at low prices. For city residents, the issue becomes not only do I need it or want it, but also do I have a place to put it? At one time, I had some interest in collecting in a few areas, predominantly books. My mother, a compulsive cleaner and person who enjoys getting rid of things, made a comment that we are just passing through and temporary caretakers of our things. Over the years, the truth in this has settled in my mind, and I now get more joy from getting rid of things than I do from collecting them.
There are values to be found in flea markets, and if this is your cup of tea, you can find online lists of hundreds of flea markets in the five boroughs (see listing here). It certainly will save you the work of scavenging the sidewalks of the Upper East Side at night before collection day :)