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Stooping NYC
Image: Time Out

The Instagram phenomenon that has New Yorkers scouring the city's sidewalks

"People are craving for things to do, and it’s become a social activity and community when socializing hasn’t really been a thing.”

By
Will Gleason
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It’s a quintessential New York experience: You’re walking down the sidewalk and suddenly spot a piece of furniture that would look absolutely perfect in your apartment, just sitting there, up for grabs. Over the years, this is roughly how I’ve come to acquire a number of priceless items, including but not limited to: a headless mannequin, a freestanding locker, a painting of Darth Vader and a deer climbing a mountain, a metal headboard, an end table covered in enchanting, cracked tiles and countless books I still haven’t read.

At the moment, hunting down discarded street freebies has the added benefit of being both an activity you can do outdoors and one that ultimately enriches the space where you’re most likely spending all of your time: your apartment. Perhaps that’s one reason why the Instagram account @StoopingNYC has become such a phenomenon.

With 120K followers and growing, the account—dedicated to collecting and sharing notable street finds—has become a buzzy topic of conversation (and frequent weekend activity initiator) among many New Yorkers. Currently, its Instagram Story contains photographs and addresses for a gorgeous mid-century chair, a large television, a children’s playset, a collection of CDs, a drum, a printer, fold-up chairs, a wicker storage box, a small table and more, offering just a small peek into the wide variety of items they share on a regular basis.

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A post shared by Stooping NYC (@stoopingnyc)

I was able to reach the Brooklyn couple behind the account (who wish to remain anonymous) over the phone earlier this week, and they told me the number of submissions they’re receiving has shot up as the pandemic drags on. “There’s no possible way to keep up,” they say. “We’re getting hundreds a day. People will say, ‘Why didn’t you post mine?’ I think they think there’s a company behind it. It’s just two people with full-time jobs. We try to write back to every single person. We always want to get up as much as humanly possible.”

Those two people with full-time jobs started the account about a year-and-a-half ago after marveling at the amazing sidewalk finds they stumbled on while taking their young son out on frequent walks around the city. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. At the start of the pandemic—still not sure about health and safety protocols—they refrained from posting. Once they started up again in the summer, they encountered a wave of what was clearly New Yorkers leaving the city for good.

“We saw full apartments on the stoop in summer and fall, what was clearly people leaving the city. We had a lot of that and now that’s normalized a bit,” they say. “Now we’re kind of back to the gamification of it, and honestly it makes me feel even more responsible on weekends because I know there are people who think it’s a ‘stooping day.’ I think people are craving for things to do, and it’s become a social activity and community when socializing hasn’t really been a thing.”

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A post shared by Stooping NYC (@stoopingnyc)

In case you’re wondering: No. They’ve never refrained from posting an item in order to claim it themselves. Though they did once drive to pick up an item immediately after posting. (They got it.) That question gets to the heart of an issue that many people seem to have with the account. It’s now so popular, it can be almost impossible to grab an item before someone else gets to it first. On that point, they have some salient advice:

“Knowing the garbage days in boroughs helps a lot. Sundays in Brooklyn are always amazing because Monday is a garbage day. The Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Soho and Ridgewood are also good places to head outside of Brooklyn. So turn your alerts on to get away from the Instagram algorithm showing you a post too late, plan to go to the best areas and wait in those areas.”

At the end of the day, though, the couple says they're more about the stooping experience than the final stooping results (as unique as those may be.)

“It’s the thrill of the hunt.”

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