nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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And so it begins: the clear out

It feels like time is slipping away already. I am on a major drive to purge our apartment of stuff we just don’t need. We have been carrying around items for years that we move from house to house and never use. But that ends now. I am on a mission to have a big clear out.

So how do you get rid of things in New York City? Well, according to our doorman you need the Salvation Army. Sounds extreme, but he’s right, they collect all your unwanted goods and sell them on to make money for their own charitable needs. I booked a pick up online last night at www.satruck.org. It’s a really good website that allows you to specify the goods you want to donate (although some of their categories are a bit esoteric), where you want them collected from and when. I was amazed at the lead time, it’ll be another 2 weeks before the boxes are collected, so I’m glad I did this early.

Then there’s the electrics. We had to buy electrics that drew any considerable amount of power, so that includes the hair dryer, toaster, kettle, hoover, shredder, blender and dust buster. I am looking for good homes for them all now, except the dust buster that will go in the bin as it’s completely worn out from collecting all the crud on our white kitchen floor! The electrical goods will be hopeless back in the UK and we already have them all sitting in a lonely storage crate in the back of beyond.

And of course there’s toys and baby clothes. J has gone from being a 10 month old baby when we arrived to a 3 year old tornado. He has a lot of baby things we just don’t need now and there will be no baby 3, that’s for sure. So, I have been sending these off to someone I know who has a boy exactly 2 years younger than J.

Even the buggy will go. Kids in New York stay in buggies way longer than UK kids because of the amount of walking they seem to do to get to school. I have seen 5 year olds in buggies. But not us. I am determined the nearly 9 year old Maclaren will not be going home and will go to the buggy tip and the 3 year old Mountain Buggy is off to Queens. Don’t tell J.

I’m sure there will be more to go, but it’s a good start. So cathartic.


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Don’t sling that banana skin in the bin

In the last year we lived in NW3, our local authority introduced food composting. I was sceptical. I couldn’t imagine how it would work, with having a bin in the kitchen with food scraps, which is then transferred to a bin outside our house and taken away by the bin men once  a week. Surely a recipe for rats? I was reluctant to start with but gave it a go and I was converted: the amount of food waste created by a small family is massive once you start actually separating it. I became a bit of a zealot with the food scraps and whilst R was hard to convince, eventually he was doing it too – apart from the odd rogue tea bag, which I rescued, much to his disgust.

So when we came to NYC I kind of missed this slightly OCD activity. I was delighted to read that Mayor Bloomberg is going to introduce food composting into New York as part of his last hurrah as mayor. There were some articles in the press here in the last few days talking about creating new facilities to handle the food waste and turn it into green energy and an estimate that around 10 per cent of the food waste would be composted. There are a range of recycling laws in NYC about paper, plastics etc and for now food composting will be voluntary, but possibly in the future the laws will mandate everyone to separate food waste. I was amused to see down on 14th Street, Union Square, a corner of the park dedicated to huge bins of food waste and some dedicated recyclers selling compost to passers by. Clearly ahead of the curve there.

See the New York Times for more info.


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Ready, willing and able

All around the streets of our bit of New York I have noticed men in bright blue trousers and jackets emblazoned with the phrase ‘ready, willing and able’. There is a reference to the Doe Fund, which I assumed was the Department of Environment. Turns out it’s actually a charity that helps the homeless who have problems with drugs and alcohol get back on their feet through a 9-12 month programme with the Fund. The guys (I have yet to see a woman) in blue are picking up rubbish (that would be trash here) from the pavement (sidewalk) and emptying bins (trashcans). In one year they pick up 9,000 tonnes (tons) in the city.  I can’t work out if they are under contract to the Dept of Sanitation who deal with residential rubbish, or if the city does this as well. As well as working, the guys in blue also get a lot of support to help with addiction and get themselves back on their feet and back into the workplace. It’s impressive. At the other extreme I have seen some people carrying, usually on a knackered old buggy (stroller), massive plastic sacks of empty plastic bottles and drink cans. They are getting to the bins before the guys in blue and picking out the bottles and cans from the general rubbish (trash) and then taking them to machines dotted around the place to make a few cents on each one. I am pretty sure this doesn’t exist in the UK. It seems very old fashioned to make money on old bottles and years ago you could get money back on returned bottles, but that wasn’t necessarily about recycling. I find it deeply depressing that in this city of wealth and the land of opportunity, people are driven to do this.