In the last day (June 6), Mike G. has seen a desk and three mattresses dumped in plain sight around his Normal Heights’ streets.
“….and all sorts of cabinets, bookcases, etc. will appear on the streets or in the alleys (between 38th and 39th Avenues), and then disappear in a day or two,” Mike said.
In North Park, a resident doesn’t have such luck. After four days, a leather couch still remains in her back alley – so she took a photo and posted it on her social media. “I saw you and your husband struggling this morning, carrying a sofa down the street,” she said, “had I known you planned to ‘dump it’ in the alley behind my house, I would’ve reported you to the police. You don’t have the decency to properly get rid of your old sofa, by driving it to the dump??? What sort of low lives are you?”
Her post raised a semi-viral uproar of 80 or so replies. Many were upset that the “couch-ditchers” did not haul it to the city dump and cough up the $37-$52 disposal fee, others were hoping that someone else would pick up the “decent looking” couch — for free.
“It’s helpful to somebody,” said a U.S. mailman who was eating at the Jack In the Box on Dale Street (up the street from the couch). “… [people] are coming in from Mexico, looking through the alleys for stuff that they can refurbish, [like] mattresses and furniture.” The mailman confirmed that the frequency of the furniture ditched by the movers (in the North Park and Normal Heights areas) is at the same level as the previous years.
“I don’t take back sofas or beds (mattresses) anymore,” said Alex. He has been alley-picking and selling for years because he fixes old furniture via “the rustic or chic style” where he strips down the paint or varnish, sands the wood, applies a new coat of paint (sometimes funky pastel colors), and then re-sells the redux for a premium. He is a tapicero. He buys material remnants from the Spring Valley Swap Meet (where he sells), and upholsters chairs and smaller furniture pieces, “but no couches,” he said.
Alex said that the alley-pickers have grown pickier because of the stricter aduanas (Mexico customs) taxations and enforcement, which is cutting into the profits gained by the segundas (second-hand store owners) and swapmeeteros.
Many of the neighbors aren’t concerned about the transborder secondary markets, though.
“As far as I’m concerned, the best resolution is to speak to the parties that dumped the couch and refer them to the proper authorities so they don’t do this again,” said Jennifer Williamson, 49, from University Heights. “[The] residents are angry because we take pride in our neighborhood – and dumping a couch is littering.”
Jennifer’s neighbor offered another creative idea; more so than the pastel-revamp.
“Last time this happened to me I watched the idiots do it,” said a North Park resident. “They lugged a mattress down the alley and leaned it on my fence. I watched them go back to their house and I brought the mattress right back and duct taped it to their car with a whole roll of tape and left them an expletive laden note about what pieces of garbage they were.”
Besides the Free section on Craigslist, a few neighbors agreed that the getitdone app is the safest way to rid a couch and other abandoned junk in the alleys. It will take a “few days, though,” said one resident.