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18.06.2018

One New Yorker’s trash is another’s work of art.

Before new MetroCards cost $1 apiece — back when their bent bodies carpeted subway station entrances, discarded by hasty passengers — I scooped up an armful and used transparent duct tape to plaster them onto a stool. In a city where so many people put on an act, nothing has ever felt as real to...
Time: 21:04     Date: 13.06.2018
US Living News: One New Yorker’s trash is another’s work of art. NY Post 24 - US News

In a city where so many people put on an act, nothing has ever felt as real to me as the components of a street: subway service change posters, speed limit signs and hydrants themselves. They’re unfeignedly familiar; they are honest, with a single purpose.

A chair by designer John Carter.John Carter

Given how beloved (and populous) New York is, it should be no surprise that many artisans and craftspeople have devised ingenious ways to give street finds a new life.

After all, what better way to belong to a city that is itself beholden to no one than turn parts of its body into home decor?

South Orange, NJ-based furniture designer John Carter was creating an office for a marketing firm and needed a chair when a lightbulb went off — on the other side of the crosswalk. “I was on 20th and Park, and I walked out, and there was a ‘Don’t Walk’ sign, and I was like, ‘That could be a chair!’ ” recalls the designer, who’s made about 25 such chairs thus far.

The signs have been fairly easy to come by: Some 40,000 of them were unloaded by the city when new ones were swapped in. Many are now available on eBay and directly from collectors who snatched up many of them, Carter says. Wiring them so they light up is the biggest challenge, but he’s able to customize the rate at which the light flashes from “Walk” to “Don’t Walk.”

Post contributor Hannah Frishberg covered a stool in MetroCards.Brian Zak/NY Post

When New York Post features writer Sara Stewart stumbled upon a bit of Coney Island in Red Hook — a carpentry shop had some of the beachfront’s boardwalk for sale — she bought two chunks. Years later, her friend Nate Wygonik, a finance adviser in Indiana, Penn., who practices woodworking as a hobby, transformed the pieces into a table. “I went through two saw blades just churning it down into pieces. It’s so dense,” Wygonik says.

Then there’s award-winning Swiss-trained metalsmith Boris Bally, who has made a business creating furniture from old street signs. In 2006, he licensed official MTA graphics — including the subway map and the Times Square-42 Street Station sign — and had a company create new signs modeled from them, which he then turned into chairs. Notes Bally, “Actual subway signs are much too thin to make [into] useful furniture.”

Sadly, none of Bally’s current work includes signs from New York City; they are largely sourced from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and other East Coast states.

Meanwhile, blue barricades, which are being phased out in favor of metal replacements, were once used for crowd control but now function as bookshelves and benches.

“I’ve always liked to bring things that are supposed to be on the street back home,” says their creator, a Brooklyn-bred photographer who repurposed the New York Police Department (NYPD) sawhorses and asked to remain anonymous for fear of being identified as stealing NYPD property.

Police barricades can be turned into a unique shelf.

For two gallery shows in Bushwick in 2016 and 2017, the mystery maker even produced picture frames out of the blue barriers.

Having a remnant of the city in your home doesn’t come cheap. My MetroCard chair is an amateurish one-of-a-kind piece, I’m afraid. Wygonik and the NYPD shelf craftsman don’t sell their goods to the public.

Bally admits his chairs are “quite expensive,” around $2,500.

For his part, Carter charged $3,900 per chair when he was selling them on Brooklyn-based retail website Uncommon Goods. These days, he will only make them if people reach out directly with a request.

Rick Kelly makes guitars out of salvaged New York City wood.Zandy Mangold

At Carmine Street Guitars in Greenwich Village, owner Rick Kelly crafts instruments out of wood salvaged from some of the city’s most legendary institutions, including the Chelsea Hotel (undergoing an extensive renovation), Trinity Church’s bell tower (damaged from 9/11) and the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava on 25th Street near Broadway (mostly destroyed in a massive 2016 fire). They start at $2,000. Often, Kelly’s guitars play on far longer than the structures sacrificed to make them.

Living

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Opinion

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Living

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Business

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Metro

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Sport

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