Picking Up Furniture From The Curb Could Cost You Thousands

Walking the sidewalks of just about any city — especially one like New York where apartment turnover is at a high level — you’re likely to find at least one or two chairs, shelves, mirrors, dressers, etc., that are in passable, if not pristine, condition. But be warned before you go putting that side table in the back of a cab — it could end up costing you a lot of money.

CBS2 in NY has the story of a man in Queens who spotted a discarded air-conditioner on the curb that has ultimately cost him — and his 73-year-old aunt — $2,000 each.

“As far as I knew it was a piece of garbage sitting on the curb,” says the guy. “There was a lady here. I asked the lady can I take the air conditioner. She said go ahead take it. It’s garbage.”

But what he didn’t know was that once trash meets curb, it belongs to the city. So when a sanitation officer down the street spotted the man loading the A/C unit into a car, not only was he fined $2,000 but the car was impounded and the car’s owner — the aforementioned elderly aunt — was fined the same amount.

Says the aunt: “I said what is this and she said well we have to serve you with this. You’re the owner of the car and it says I gave him permission.”

According to the city’s Department of Sanitation, it’s fine to grab furniture from the curb; just don’t do it in a motor vehicle.

Writes CBS2:

Recycling is a revenue source for the city and sanitation officials said the law was “designed to deter organized rings of recycling thefts” that cost the city more than $300,000 a year.

Another source of revenue is apparently the fine itself. In 2009, the sanitation department issued 280 summonses for violators and impounded 136 vehicles. At $2,000 per violation, that’s a nice chunk of change in the city’s pocket.

NYC Man Fined $2,000 For Taking Discarded Garbage [WBCSTV via Gothamist]


Edit Your Comment

  1. midwestkel says:

    Wait, what? So what if you are moving and you have someone hauling stuff out setting it on the curb while you load it in a moving truck? As soon as you set it on the curb it belongs to the city? That just doesn’t make any since.

    Also I didn’t know that the sanitation was run by the city, I would think it was a company that you pay money to every month if you want them to pick up your trash.

    • Lucky225 says:

      EVERYWHERE I have lived, sanitation is ran by the city, usually the water co-op. It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I learned there are cities in this country that don’t have a sanitation department and you’re on your own for choosing a waste provider. Pissed me off, I thought the water company would pick the trash up, and had to wait an extra 2 weeks before service started with my waste company.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        According to an article I read, this encourages competition, and there is in fact “fierce competition” among private sanitation companies. You should get competing quotes.

      • DanRydell says:

        What did you do, just put the trash on the curb and wait? I mean, first thing I would have done would have been ask my neighbor when the garbage man comes or try to look up the pickup schedule online.

        Everywhere I’ve lived has had private trash service. $20 a month is not bad for 95 gallons picked up twice a week + I can put out bulk items once a week. I was able to get rid of all of the construction materials I ended up with from remodeling my house without paying for a dumpster.

        • lchen says:

          Trash pick up is twice a week and one of the days includes recycling, days differ from neighborhood to neighborhood so when you move in you ask the neighbors what days they are. It’s paid for in our taxes, even large items are taken without questions but when there’s construction involved you do need to rent a dumpster. I’ve lived in NYC nearly all my life so I can’t imagine it being any different.

        • maztec says:

          You throw away 95 gallons per week?

          No wonder we have a problem with landfills. That volume of trash, even for a large family, absolutely astounds me.

      • Powerlurker says:

        I’ve never lived anywhere where garbage pickup was managed by the city. Even when we lived in a presumably HOA controlled subdivision, we were still responsible for contracting our own waste pickup. Where I live now is served by a municipal utility, but trash pickup is still a line item on my utility bill, not something dealt with by a department of sanitation funded by taxes.

    • womynist says:

      In larger areas, sanitation is run by the city. However, if you live in a more rural area (like some places here in NH) there are privately owned waste removal companies that you have to pay to remove your trash/recyclables. The town my parents live in has municipal trash pickup, but you have to purchase special “Town” garbage bags that are sold at the grocery store-otherwise they won’t take your garbage.

      • Big Mama Pain says:

        Yep, NH native here; those garbage bags are expensive! Part urging recycling, part urging you to stop throwing so much crap away. Take it you leave in the Seaboard area? That seems to be where they are the most aggressive with it.

        • NashuaConsumerist says:

          I know of that program in Concord NH. Created a lot of outcry at the cost of $1 a bag. However, I will attest that once that program was in place the amount of recycling that was in curbside bins was EASILY 10 times the amount in the past. I think in the long run, those people in towns that have to buy those bags will break even or save money via taxes that would have been collected to pay for the volume of trash that would be moved through transfer stations to landfills elsewhere. I know other people who may live in Nashua may dissagree wtih me, but I really wish we had a similar program in my town. It saddens me on trash collection day to look up and down the street and see over flowing trash cans and NO recycling bins and my near empty trash can and 3 bins of recycling…..

          • xyzzyman says:

            The family below me generates 3-4 cans of garbage a week and never recycle. They are filthy and when confronted about their garbage all over the lawn & stairwell they tried saying I never take out my garbage and I attract mice. I let them come into my apartment to show that I don’t even fill a 13 gallon garbage bag a week as I sort all my recyclables and put them out every 2 weeks and have no mice at all. lol Would explain why I’ve lived here for 2 years and still on the same 80ct or so box of bags.

    • Jack Handy Manny says:

      That’s what I thought. “Waste Management” advertises at Yankee games. 1st why does a garbage company need to advertise? 2nd why do the advertise there if they don’t service NY.

      • DarthCoven says:

        WM does service NY. DOS only picks up residential garbage and street litter cans. Commercial companies need to contract out their waste removal services to private carting companies like WM.

      • domcolosi says:

        Businesses and some buildings with dumpsters have to hire companies like Waste Management to come pick up their trash and recycling.

        Also, why does it matter whether they service the city? Are all 50 thousand people at a Yankee game from the city proper?

    • Bob says:

      Easy, in New York City, if its on the curb its the city’s properly. If it’s in the road and no one claims it it’s the city’s property. If it property located in the city and you don’t pay you proper fee or tax it becomes the city’s property. For purposes of the census and the DMV and for Voting, etc, YOU are the property of the city.

      So what’s the problem?

    • user452 says:

      I think it’s really sad that there’s even a possibility of there being somewhere where a critical service like waste collection is privatised.

      What is this world coming to?

      What’s next?
      Privatised mayors?
      Privatised firemen who refuse to put out a fire if you don’t pay?

  2. Gruppa says:

    What if the item wasn’t intended for the sanitation dept? I’ve seen plenty of people leave items on the curb with a FREE sign on them.

    • jimstoic says:

      Then it’s probably the person leaving it on the curb who is doing something illegal, rather than the person picking it up.

      • Mr. TheShack says:

        What a wonderful country we live in! Putting something on the curb that says “Free!” and encourages responsible reusing of products is committing a crime! What a perilously wonderous nanny state we have created for ourselves. Our laws beget common sense and reasoning. Don’t use your head, use policy, and let your boss deal with any outrage. After all, you are just doing your job. Keep your eyes to the ground, and your hands on that shovel America. Just keep digging.

  3. Bernardo says:

    Not even a warning huh? Its a shame that tickets started as a way to help make sure people behaved and help the city stay clean. Now its a major source of cash. No more warnings, now its about quotas and screwing over the taxpayer.

    My problem with this is the greater debt bringing bed bugs into your home can be.

    • womynist says:

      That’s what I initially thought the article was going to be about. bedbugs not only live in mattresses, but can also hide out in anything wooden-picture frames, dressers, etc.

    • bizzarodave says:

      Thats the direction I thought this article was going to. Something about pests living inside said free pieces of furniture. These $2000 violations are boooooooooogus.

    • Conformist138 says:

      Thought the same thing. My mouth is hanging open after actually reading the article. I keep thinking of the last time I moved and my roomies and I put some of our old furniture on the side of the road. We didn’t call anyone or anything, we just waited. Sure enough, within an hour there were people in a truck asking if any of it was free. We let them take what they wanted. The way we saw it, it was doing a good deed. Rather than let the stuff potentially just get scrapped, we gave it to someone who wanted to use it. Just because it took place outside never made me consider if the city would care.

      Once, when I had to sell off a lot of my grandma’s extra stuff, I had a garage sale. After most everything was sold, we moved the rest to the curb and put up an ad on CL: “Last of estate sale, free, come and get it” with a photo of exactly what we’d put out. We drove by later to clean up, but every single item was gone.

      The irony is, if my city really wanted to get on me, I’d just ask why mowing and caring for the strip of grass by the curb is my job, but putting one of my belongings on it and allowing someone else to pick up said belongings is illegal. I’m now curious enough to wonder if there are any rules about that around here since I never ever thought it could be so serious. Impounding their CAR? Good god, man, have they no souls?

  4. Link_Shinigami says:

    He should fight it because the original owner said he could have it. By the logic of New York, if you intend to throw something out, and then place it down on the ground, and someone offers you money for it and you then sell your potential garbage, you stole city property and made a profit on it.

    This is b/s and this guy should fight it.

    Likewise, this means anything that someone looses on the streets of new york, and someone finds and turns in to the police (How unlikely that is) it means it can’t be given back to the person because it is then owned by the city. Basically NYC is playing the idiotic game of finders keepers where they are always the finder because they are bigger. The same crap the moron on the school yard used to do when you dropped your lunch money or something and then refused to give it back

    • dreamfish says:

      My impression is that it’s sillier than that – you haven’t stolen city property if you carried it away manually. It’s only if you put it into a car.

      • jimstoic says:

        I have the impression that the sanitation engineer was saying the city overlooks the matter when there is no vehicle involved. But if an item becomes yours once you pick it up, then you’re not doing anything wrong when you put it in a vehicle: it’s your own property!

      • MrsLopsided says:

        A sanitation officer can’t demand your ID – but if you have a car then the city can run the plates and track you down for payment.

        • andsowouldi says:

          Do sanitation offers carry cameras? Because I don’t think a license plate number alone and his word is enough to fine me $2,000 per person he saw in my vehicle and impound my vehicle.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:


      /spelling nazi

    • Norvy says:

      “There was a lady here” doesn’t necessarily mean that he spoke to the original owner.

  5. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it sure makes for a nice revenue stream!

    I’m on the fence about this, though I feel that $2000 is a bit on the high side if you consider that someone who is taking recyclables from the curb for extra money probably does not have $2000 available any time in the near future. Under the circumstances, I think the fine exceeds punitive.

    • Pandrogas says:

      But laws that legalize extortion require ignorance of them to survive. $2000 is way beyond what this fine should have been let alone that it was doubled on account of a technicality. Actually, the entire law is a technicality and the city worker probably either wanted the AC unit or wanted a raise.

      The simple solution in most cases is to always follow the law, but what if the law is part of the problem? Do we simply keep following because that’s what we’re supposed to or do we change it because it was designed to allow for government to pocket money they would not otherwise have a right to?

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        “Do we simply keep following because that’s what we’re supposed to or do we change it because it was designed to allow for government to pocket money they would not otherwise have a right to?”

        No. That’s why people need to stop watching the news and make it instead. Citizens need to realize what is not important to them at the moment may be important to them down the road. It’s a case of “it seems fair until it happens to you.” Or not; either way the citizenry should do something other than bitch about it.

  6. smo0 says:

    Yet… they have a serious debt…. I think that law applies to the homeless people picking up cans and cashing in on the city’s paid duties… otherwise stuff like this ends up in the dump. If it can be reused, I say why not? Even if the guy turns around and resells it.

    Otherise… organized rings of recycling thefts!! Oh god… mobsters for cleaning up the environment, THE HORROR!

    • JollyJumjuck says:

      I bet most homeless people could pick up cans and such ten times faster than a city worker.

    • DarthCoven says:

      There’s a Chinese family that lives down my block. Every Wednesday night I put out my cans and bottles. No joke, within 20 minutes, anything that can be redeemed is gone. I should just let them come into my kitchen and take the empties so I don’t have to bag it all up in the first place!

    • oldwiz65 says:

      I can picture them trying to fine a homeless person $2000 for picking up a 5 cent can.

  7. Sparty999 says:

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little…

  8. runswithscissors says:

    There is something seriously wrong with this.

    People reusing things is the best form of recylcing.

    Seriously, what the fook, NY?

    • Jfielder says:

      Haha, you’re looking at it wrong…. NYC doesn’t recycle for the “green” aspect… it’s only because they get paid lots and lots of money for all their recyclables. If recycling wasn’t lucrative no city would participate.

      • freelunch says:

        and yet in some towns they want you to pay for the privilege of recycling…

        I should get a credit against my trash services for every full recycling can I put out.

      • Karita says:

        My law firm also manages the office complex we are in, and we get paid for recycling. There is usually a lot more trash, so the credits usually just offset the trash bill, but if there were a lot of paper, we’d end up making money.

        There was an article, either in the NY Times or the Hartford Courant, about a year ago describing the problems towns in Connecticut were having with recycling. Before the market crash, paper recyclables were going for a huge amount, and it was a great addition to town/city budgets. But then the prices of paper/glass/scrap went down so much that towns were paying to recycle. There was a bit of a fuss because some towns were going to discontinue recycling altogether, as there was no longer a financial incentive for them to offer the service.

  9. veg-o-matic says:

    Weird. In Boston, garbage is considered abandoned property so anyone can go through it and take what they want. I don’t think the case is any different even for special pickup items like TVs and whatnot. And people definitely pick through recyclables pretty thoroughly. The “clink clink” from the street outside means its recycling night!

    And we got a nice shelf unit for free too.

    • Conformist138 says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s the same here, too. Otherwise, all of us wage-slaves living 4-8 per house would be hardcore felons by now with all our “thieving”.

      I put up ads on CL announcing when I’ve moved something large to the curb, it guarantees someone with a truck will be by within minutes. Charities take a day or more to pick-up big items, the city would take longer. I go with the fastest route possible and never have unsightly crap left to rot in front of my yard longer than a half-hour.

      Best story ever was when my best friend and her husband got their really awesome entertainment center. It’s huge and solid oak, but was on the side of the road with a “free” sign. It didn’t fit in the truck, but was on wheels. My friend drove while her hubby sat in the truck bed, holding the edge of the entertainment center as it trailed behind them. They drug it all the way home and it’s been in their living room ever since. A similar piece of furniture would have run them at least $1000 brand new.

      • mrscoach says:

        Where my sister and niece live they can’t put a free sign on anything and have it disappear, just doesn’t happen. If they put a price on the item? Disappears almost immediately. My sister swears one item was gone before she even got back in the house.

        I guess people figure if it is free it isn’t worth anything, but if someone wants money it must be worth something.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    What if sanitation won’t take it? There is a limit to what your trash company will take without charging a fee for the dump.

  11. chiieddy says:

    My father used to bring home all sorts of crap he’d find in the city where he worked (NYC). He would bring home a piece of furniture + bedbugs or a piece of furniture + cockroaches. Fumigation costs are not worth trash picking.

  12. libwitch says:

    Thank gods my city doesn’t have such a law. But then again, people also need to consider that “free” things anywhere can cost you in otherways – very often people are discarding items because of insect infestation – which is not always visible to the naked eye. Used furniture of all kinds is a HUGE source of cockroach and bedbug infestation.

  13. Illusio26 says:

    I’m guessing this is in place due to some non-compete clause the unions have or something.

    • Powerlurker says:

      It’s because the city gets money for recycling, which helps fund the sanitation department. They passed the laws to keep scrappers from stealing recyclables that people had put out for the city to pick up.

    • kabamm says:

      You lose. Points deducted.

      Nice try at blaming labor unions though.

  14. Hermia says:

    Man, I got a really nice sofa this way. Vintage early 60’s barely used. This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in awhile.

    • EtherealFlame says:

      Here, here! I have gotten some AWESOME stuff like this. Especially living on a military post with people moving constantly. I have gotten dishes, furniture, garden supplies, pet supplies. You name it. The base was GRATEFUL when people would recycle their stuff to someone else because they didn’t have to pay for disposal since it was a free utilities community for the residence.

  15. adrew says:

    Dang, in Fort Worth it is almost a ritual for us to go cruising around during bulk trash pickup week. You can put a pile “as big as a Volkswagen Beetle” in your front yard and the city will come pick it up for free. I’ve found some cool stuff.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    A lot of commenters have made extremely good points, so I’m going to vote this as completely assinine.

    I’d say the only “organized rings of recycling thefts” you need to worry about appears to be the Dept. of Sanitation and their muscling around of the general populace.

  17. endless says:


    pay a dollar to the owner.

  18. Aesha says:

    I used to think trashpicking might be a good way for me to find an occasional new piece of furniture when I graduated from college. But then I found out when I moved to Chicago that some places or people have a major issue with bedbugs and other pests, and that turned me off of ever even contemplating it again. I’m even nervous about purchasing things used online at Craigslist or something, so I’m pretty cautious when I do. I’ve been lucky not to have the issue, but I’ve learned from others that it’s not only costly but a big pain in the ass when it does happen.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      You can always leave it in a bag in the sun. IIRC, the newest form of bedbug killing is sealing the home up, and bringing the temp up to ~130 degrees, which kills them all w/no chemicals. I saw it on an episode of Hoarders.

  19. TheDoctor says:

    I went to the article to read it and Im still not positive as to the verbiage: If you are in a car its illegal. Does that mean if you get out, put the thing in the car, then get in it is illegal, or if you are physically in the car and just sorta lean out to grab it? If he managed to get that unit it in his car while he was still in it, more power to him. Do you know how heavy AC units can be?

  20. Dallas_shopper says:

    In my city once you put garbage out at the curb, it’s considered “abandoned property” and anyone can take it. I don’t care if people take my trash but it’s kind of scary when all they take is the recycling bag full of paper. Makes me think they’re after my identity. I shred, but still. That happened to me and I notified the police…I wasn’t upset, I just thought they might like to know that they might have a ring of ID thieves working the area. They rejected my report on the basis that “trash is abandoned property.” So be sure and shred, guys!

  21. PsiCop says:

    Let’s say I buy an A/C or piece of furniture, and in the process of moving it into my apartment, I happen to set it down for a moment (say, to take a brief rest). Does that mean it now belongs to the city? That’s the way this policy reads.

    Seems to easy a way for the city to seize possession of things.

    • Difdi says:

      Yes. The price tag of your appliance would have just jumped by $2000 plus whatever it costs to buy another one to replace the one that now belongs to the city. And don’t set that second one down on your way into the house, or…

  22. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    This is typical NYC bullshit. I lived there for 20 years, and the stupidest types of enforcement were common. I remember when there was a water shortaage and the city banned commercial window washing ro conserve water. A store owner used water that had been through his boiler system to wash his windows – instead of letting it go directly down the drain. He was arrested and fined a couple of thousand dollars. Absolutely mindless!

    • Not Given says:

      I’ve wondered about something myself. We’ve given up our storm cellar for it’s intended purpose, it fills with water every summer. Our town implements odd/even watering days, could we get fined for pumping water out of our cellar onto the garden on the wrong day since it isn’t even the city’s water to begin with?

      • Iblis says:

        You’d think it isnt the city’s water, but it actually is. Most states and cities own their stormwater runoff, which is why its illegal to have rain barrels in alot of places.

        • psiphiorg says:

          I don’t think it’s “most states”, but just the western states, which have “water rights” legislation. When I moved from Illinois to Colorado, I was surprised about the very concept that the rain water that lands in your yard doesn’t belong to you. We didn’t have those issues in Illinois, but in states that have a lot of desert area, it makes sense that they would do something different.

  23. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I swear I saw this on an episode of Law&Order. Except it was a couch or a rolled up carpet.

  24. heltoupee says:

    I live in central IL, and we have plenty of “garbage pickers” here. Couple of guys with a beat-up old pickup that drive through neighborhoods on trash day and scavenge for scrap metal. I’m happy to let them have it — my large items get removed more quickly, and they do a much cleaner job of it than the overworked municipal sanitation company does.

  25. JohnDeere says:

    nyc department of organized gangstas is more like it.

  26. bsh0544 says:

    So how far do you have to carry it before putting it in a car for it to not be illegal? Obviously you can’t certify that it will never again travel in a car, even if you were to carry it all the way home, so where’s the limit on that law? Wasn’t there a recent post where a law was invalidated for being vague?

  27. coren says:

    From the article

    “Two thousand dollars is a pretty hefty fine and I don’t know what law was broken,” Bloomberg said. ” (Bloomberg is of course, the mayor)

    Also, how do they expect you to transport this shit away without a vehicle? Oh look here’s a nice leather couch, I’ll just strap it to my back and walk five miles, and leave my car behind and come back for that later (can’t take it on the bus, that’d be a fine for you and the bus would get impounded of course!).

    Utterly ridiculous.

    • shepd says:

      Sounds like once it’s off the curb, it’s no longer the city’s. So, haul it onto a front yard, drop it for a second, then put it in your truck. If they want to play stupid, I can too.

  28. nygenxer says:

    Yes this is true. The last time I remember this making headlines was when people started getting busted for picking up bundles of recycled newspapers off the sidewalks.

  29. nbs2 says:

    If recycling is this profitable, where is my cut from the city?

    • nygenxer says:

      If I remember correctly, the proceed are applied to the cost of running the sanitation department. So your cut is a very slight savings in city taxes, a cleaner environment and a more sustainable future. Society setting a good example for the kids by doing the right thing (for once) is also kinda nice.

      • Firethorn says:

        Except of course, that in the environmental chain reuse comes before recycle.

        At work they do the environmental training thing –
        Reduce – If you can use a gallon instead of 2, do so.
        Reuse – Rather than throw something away, recondition and reuse.
        Recycle – Now you disassemble it.

        In the end, it’s better to reuse a functional and still fairly efficient AC unit than to recycle it.

  30. Froggmann says:

    So in other words the “Sanitation Officer” is enforcing the law in bad faith.

    BTW has anyone ever done an audit on how much the “Sanitation Officers” cost the city vs what they “save” in recovering lost material?

  31. morehalcyondays says:

    Where I live the illegals come around and grab stuff on trash days to either sell at flea markets or sell for scrap metal.

  32. ophmarketing says:

    Wait. On the one hand, we have:
    “But what he didn’t know was that once trash meets curb, it belongs to the city.”

    But then we learn:
    “According to the city’s Department of Sanitation, it’s fine to grab furniture from the curb; just don’t do it in a motor vehicle.”

    So in other words, it’s OK to steal the items from the city, as long as you do it on foot?

  33. Dre' says:

    More stupid crap from NYC, move along here, nothing to see.

  34. shepd says:

    There was a movie where this was central to the plot line, involving an officer finding a gun in the garbage and not being allowed to enter it into evidence as, at the time, there was no law defining whose property it was. I’ll be darned if I can recall the title, though.

  35. sopmodm14 says:

    well, obviously, he wasn’t doing it for recycling fraud but for private use. its a gray area, and hopefully, he’ll be ok

  36. Graner316 says:

    As a garbageman I have to call bullshit. DEP would have a field day if they found garbagemen are taking air conditioners.

  37. Punchy says:

    In Illinois it’s legal to dumpster dive and take people’s trash; but illegal to steal items from your recycle bin. So you see entrepreneurs digging for aluminum cans out of your trash bags, but leaving the one in your recycle bins alone (at least while your watching)

  38. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    This is ridiculous. If it’s on the street, it belongs to everyone now. The streets are public, and instead of waiting days for the city to remove it, why can’t people just take it themselves? That way the city on’t need to spend as much money sending people out collecting stuff on the streets.

  39. drburk says:

    If they own the junk on my curb they better come get ride of the dirt and debris and keep that area of theirs clean.

  40. teke367 says:

    Can NYC be on next years WCIA list? Seriously, these fines sound just like Ticketmaster fees and Airline fees.

    Its just for revenue, which is ridiculous. Politicians argue for balanced budgets, what they should really fight for is making sure cities don’t have budgets that rely on fines to pay for things. Maybe let 2009’s fines be used in 2010, and 2010’s in 2011 and so on.

  41. echovictorecho says:

    Does this mean you can take your kid’s dirty diaper – “city property” – and fling it on the mayor’s desk?

  42. MercuryPDX says:

    Something to also consider: Furniture picked up from the curb may have occupants you’ll need to exterminate after you invite them into your home.

  43. jaybeebrad says:

    Call me nuts, but if something that belongs to someone is then claimed by someone else as their own, without the implicit permission of the original owner, isn’t that a crime called conversion?

  44. Ben says:

    If you want to pay your city taxes, just throw some money down on the curb.

  45. golddog says:

    You sure the “sanitation officer” wasn’t actually Paulie Walnuts protecting his cartage territory? Was the ticket written on the back of a gabagool sandwich wrapper?

  46. Emperor Norton I says:

    Totally legal in Chicago to pickup stuff during daylight hours as long as it’s in the alley or next to it if the garbage cans are outside of the fence.

  47. evilpete says:

    That was a CLEAR miss use of the law

  48. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Picking up used furniture from the sidewalk, especially in NYC, could be a hugely costly mistake for yet another reason: bedbugs.

  49. AngryK9 says:

    In other words, cash grab by greedy politicians. All you had to say.

  50. TenDigitArmy says:

    I agree. The reason being this…these fines are not implemented to punish the victim for taking furniture that is old, unworthy, broken or un-needed but rather to set an example and hopefully frighten the real thieves from sifting through garbage and looting personal information. I throw away tons of stuff that could end-up as puzzle pieces to help steal my identity. I do have a shredder and shred most of the very personal information but given enough time and patience, an individual could get enough information from me to wreak havoc on my life. I assume that others throw away sensitive information also. I don’t want people digging through my trash. When I throw it away, I expect it to end-up in a landfill.

  51. edrebber says:

    Ignore the sanitation worker and leave. Pretend like the sanitation worker does not exist. If anyone follows up on this, your only response should be “no statement”.

  52. Kingeryck says:

    That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard all day. They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing that to continue. $2,000.00 and impounding your car is totally fair for the infraction. You probably get off with less for drunk driving! But you took an old AC off the curb, ooooooh!

  53. rookie says:


    No need to toss everything, some folks may need it…

  54. Coelacanth says:

    There was once a piece of furniture sitting outside my apartment complex that looked tempting. A police officer happened to be walking down, so I pulled him aside and asked if it was legal to claim the property – to which he said, “it looks like ‘abandoned property to me!'” and gave me the nod to go ahead.

    (Note – I ended up not taking it afterall.)

  55. sheriadoc says:

    Wow. That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. If someone prevents an item from being tossed in a landfill, fabulous! I grew up in Boston, and garbage day is like shopping day for some people. I have a friend who left out a mattress to be taken away, and someone came by and strapped it to their car roof within two hours. My boyfriend also knew someone that used to go to Beacon Hill (rich area) on garbage day and got some really nice things that were left out.

  56. richco says:

    It’s re-goddamn-diculous! I have picked trash since I was 12. I have found tons of fantastic stuff, some of it I kept, some of it I sold. I’m out of work now and I have been grabbing stuff to take to the flea market for a few months now. Hell, you’d be suprised how much of the stuff you buy from a flea market is from the trash.

    Better than in a landfill.

  57. Memtex784 says:

    I have picked up may things from curbside shopping. Picked up a fire pit once, still using it today.

  58. Carlee says:

    Apparently we have a similar law in California (I did not know that), but I think it’s kind of stupid. Okay, so they want to do away w/ the recycling theft rings, but that should apply to recyclables such as cans, bottles, paper. You can get money when you recycle such items. I don’t think that you can get money for recycling stuff like electronics (in fact, sometimes you have to pay?) or furniture.

    See, there’s a difference – when we put out our recycling trash can, we’re putting it for the city dept to come by and pick it up. Hobos and can collectors come along and dig in there. However, if we put an old tv or a desk, we’re not putting it there for the city. We’re putting it there because we no longer have a use for it and maybe someone else wants it. Now, if the city wants to say “don’t dump your stuff on the sidewalk”, then that’s fine, but it should apply to the dumper, not the person who picks it up.

  59. jjcraftery says:

    Are you FRIGGEN KIDDING ME?????????????????

  60. baristabrawl says:

    But didn’t the Supreme Court decide that once you throw it out, it’s a free for all?

  61. risotto says:

    NY D.O.S. has gotten outwardly ridiculous with their ticketing to make some money during the budget crisis.

    My building has gotten two tickets for “garbage put out on a non-garbage day”, both of which were issued and dated on the official garbage day.

    One inspector opened up a black bag, found an empty can, and issued a ticket for putting a recyclable in a black bag.

    Then a few weeks ago a ticket was issued for a few empty packs of cigarettes and bottle caps from the club next door that were thrown in front of our building. They could put up a corner can there like the one two blocks down, but it’s much more profitable to write tickets.

    They just assume people are too busy to contest BS tickets and will pay them, however after multiple tickets in a year the fines can escalate up to $1000 per violation. And they can find ANYTHING that breaks the rules. Technically, using string or tape instead of twine to bundle your cardboard is a fine-able offense.

  62. Jerem43 says:

    Wait, the Supreme Court says once trash hits the curbs it doesn’t belong to anyone, so how does NYC turn around and claim it is theirs?

  63. legolex says:

    So NYC is saying that every. single. thing. gets recycled, not thrown away or added to a land fill? I’d like to see proof.

  64. thriftinyc says:

    Sanity prevailed (for a change)…the case was dismissed.


  65. shibblegritz says:

    Ah, government. Our great benevolent overlord. Always looking out for the little guy. Never trying to amass power and coin for itself.

  66. Chongo says:

    One thing I love about chicago is that you can put anything in the alley and its gone in about 10 mins. There are roaming bands of ‘scavengers’ in little flat beds that spend all day going up and down the streets.

    I was worried at my last move that some of my stuff was not going to get taken so I put my VHS copy of Scarface on top of it all and BAM! literally taken within 5 mins.

  67. Aaron Poehler says:

    What a racket.

  68. temporaryscars says:

    This sounds like a job for Jimmy Justice!

  69. Me. says:

    I’ve “donated” and picked up so much stuff from the un-official free trade market that exists in cities and think it is wonderful.

    Having said that, I think there should be a 3 day rule: if someone hasn’t picked up your couch/ boxes/ VHS tapes/ etc within 3 days, they become your responsibility again to dispose of properly. I’ve seem too many good-enough couches become disgusting-moldy-sponge couches because the owners put them out before a storm and neglect them for weeks on end.

  70. JohnJ says:

    In New York City, over a relatively brief period , 11,528 appliances, which the Department of Sanitation were supposed to pick up, were stolen.

    “Behind those losses, some in the industry — by some accounts an $85 billion annual business in 2008 — see the hand of organized crime, although no one can point to hard evidence. New York’s enduring and resourceful mob families have long played a role in both the recycling and scrap industries and have a knack for turning up where the money is.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/nyregion/15fridge.html?sq=appliances crime&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=print