In an innocuous Manhattan Sanitation Department garage on 99th street, above a small fleet of trash trucks, hundreds and hundreds of art pieces sit carefully arranged around a hand-painted sign that reads, “Treasure in the Trash by Nelson Molina.” Mr. Molina is a 58-year-old sanitation worker who began collecting odds and ends on his route 20 years ago; as his collection grew, word spread to workers in other boroughs and his collection swelled. Today, he estimates his collection nears 1,000 pieces, from a pastel copy of Matisse’s “Woman With A Hat” to ancient tricycles and four electric guitars perched reverently around a poster of Michael Jackson.
“I would call it more than a gallery,” said Robin Nagle, who teaches at New York University and is the anthropologist in residence at the Sanitation Department. “Maybe a collection, a museum, an archive. Maybe we need a new word. Maybe he’ll become a word! ‘Hey, you’ve made a Molina!’ ”