Bags of trash and furniture lined the street outside the Alameda (255 West 84th Street) on Monday, remnants of the apartment of deceased artist and photographer Diane Greene, whose former home was being cleared out to make way for renovations.
But the street was also full of people, members of the Buy Nothing 76-90 St UWS Facebook Group, which had come together to make sure that Greene’s possessions would be rehomed and put to good use instead of ending up in a landfill.
A video of the group, along with an intimate look at a number of Greene’s belongings, was posted on TikTok by Upper West Sider and eco-influencer Anna Sacks (@thetrashwalker), gathering nearly two-hundred thousand likes.
“My friend Marcelline texted a group of us with a screenshot of all the stuff on the street,” Sacks told us. “I got my cart and went and took whatever could fit.”
“On Monday, I told my Buy Nothing friends and we posted about it in our Buy Nothing group.”
A massive turnout was the result.
Sacks has a lot of experience with this type of situation. The former investment banker has become widely known on Instagram and TikTok for her trash walks, spreading awareness of waste at Duane Reade, Starbucks, college dorms, and now, at Diane Greene’s apartment building.
Neighbors described Greene as “very kind,” saying “she had great taste.” After becoming deeply acquainted with Greene’s things, Sacks clearly agreed, telling us “She had incredible taste, and was a really talented photographer and artist.”
The video displayed many of her photos, paintings and sculptures strewn across the sidewalk, along with items like a table, a Singer sewing machine, a piano and lots of clothing and dishware, all of which were able to find new homes.
“It’s a large city, so it happens somewhat frequently; someone leaves an apartment and it could be the next of kin lives across the country, it could be they want nothing to do with it, it could be there is no next of kin. It ends up being up to the building to decide what to do with it and a lot of time when that happens, everything just goes into the trash,” Sacks said.
“A lot of people are being critical of the next of kin, I’m not critical, I have no clue what the circumstances are and I think it’s important for people to not be making assumptions about anyone. I understand where the contractor was coming from, I wish things would have been different but I understand…I just wish we would do more as a society and as a city to prevent these types of apartment clean outs and the wastefulness from happening.”
Sacks did have one solution in mind: deconstruction legislation.
“[A] sort of bill saying that you must make an attempt to rehome these items, rather than discard them, or it could be a major fee.”
And, she says, it could save the city money in the process.
“New York City spends half a billion dollars a year on just landfilling and incinerating fees for the waste that we produce.”
In the meantime, it’s up to regular New Yorkers to fill in the gaps, like they did at Diane Greene’s.
“This one hit me hard,” Sacks said. “It was really sad for me to see the contents of her apartment, in a sense, her life, tossed. I’m trying to get to the place of being grateful that we saved what we could.”
For those who want to rehome their own things (or those of a loved one) in the event of an apartment clean out, Sacks offered up a number of resources and suggestions:
- Buy Nothing Groups on Facebook.
- Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist Free Pages.
- BigReuse (does pickups).
- United War Veterans Council (does pickups).
- Housing Works (does pick ups for high end items but also tosses items they are not interested in).
- Hosting an estate sale.
- Let people in the building know that things are available.
If you’re cleaning out an apartment on the UWS and you need help or advice, you can also reach out to her directly via her website.