By Gus Saltonstall
A dumpster on West 76th Street near the corner of Central Park West turned into an unexpected trove of titles for the taking over the past few days, after the New-York Historical Society threw out hundreds of books.
The dumpster was filled with brand-new books, many that were still in their plastic wrapping, including presidential biographies, histories of the Revolutionary War, stories from the Civil Rights movement, and tales of immigration to New York.
“[I can’t believe] that the New-York Historical Society did this,” Upper West Sider Riva Atlas told West Side Rag. “How nice would it have been for the neighborhood if they put stuff neatly in boxes, and said neighbors please come. We’ve seen since COVID, people putting stuff out on their stoops, so I don’t blame them for wanting to clear out, but take five or 10 minutes to have your staff put things out nicely,” she added.
“Wow. We are literally tossing our history in the dumpster,” another person wrote about the discarded books under a Facebook post about the issue.
The New-York Historical Society, which was founded in 1804 as the city’s first museum, admitted to throwing out the books, but explained it as a “miscommunication.”
“The NYHistory Store needed to clear out its storage space. The intention was to discard a number of older, damaged books and send newer books to relocation,” Marybeth Ihle, a spokesperson for the museum, told the Rag. “Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and some of the newer books were discarded. This certainly wasn’t our intention. Whenever possible, New-York Historical works to donate surplus books to libraries and local organizations.”
Ihle did not specify what the miscommunication was.
The books were thrown into the dumpster on 76th Street sometime between Friday and Saturday, and there were still some books left when West Side Rag visited the trash receptacle on Monday morning.
While multiple community members expressed their frustration over the books ending up in the dumpster, Upper West Siders found a way to make the best of it.
News of the discarded books made its way to an Upper West Siders Buy Nothing Facebook group, which serves as a platform for locals to give away items for free.
Members came to the dumpster to collect the books and organize them into more accessible piles, while continuing to let people know they were available.
“My estimate is I took out maybe 80 books and distributed them to members of the group — my apartment was basically a free bookstore yesterday!” Jamy Hsu, a member of the Buy Nothing group, told the Rag.
On Monday, the New-York Historical Society announced details surrounding the construction of a new wing of the museum, but it is unclear if the impending work was the reason for the needed storage clear out.
Other items found in the dumpster included maps, posters, magazines, and larger discarded pieces that looked connected to exhibits or store merchandise.
Here are more of the books and materials people were able to rescue from the dumpster, including photos of the materials still in the dumpster.
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