Forty-nine storage rooms.
One hundred ten buildings.
Six thousand, two hundred ninety-one trunks.
Millions of items, any of which could be worth millions.
In the 8/8/11 New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece by Nick Paumgarten revealed that there are 6,291 unclaimed trunks of personal belongings in dank storage rooms below Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a large apartment compound in New York.
These trunks date back decades to the 1940s, when the buildings opened, and of course the reasons they’ve been abandoned vary; the owners of some have died, but most likely most of those reasons will remain as mysterious as the contents themselves.
That is because it does not seem that anyone plans to open them. Well, some have been opened and some have burst open, but the article doesn’t say if there will a systematic cataloguing of the rest of the mass of material.
Which is why I promptly called Rose Associates, the property manager cited in the article.
Thus far, most of what has spilled out of trunks seems worthless—old clothes, canceled checks, ‘70s LPs. But I’m willing to wager that at least one of those trunks, and quite possibly several, contains an original copy of Action Comics #1 (featuring the debut of Superman), Detective Comics #27 (debut of Batman), or any number of other ultra-rare, mega-valuable comics, not to mention other kinds of valuables.
The companies that own the residential complex have been tasked with finding a more profitable use for this storage space. Given the understandably skeeved attitude of the property manager quoted in the article (who describes the air in those rooms as “unsanitary” and who said “I hate to think about the stuff that would come running out” when trunks are moved, etc.), I figured it would be worth a shot to ask if a writer could do research there. For all I know (the article doesn’t say), they might be planning to pulp those trunks.
I didn’t hear back from Rose. I don’t seem have great luck when it comes to New York institutions.
(I proposed holding a signing for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman at the Bronx Zoo both because of the bat connection and because Bill [Finger] lived in the Bronx when he co-created Batman. They said no. More on this in a future post.)
No matter. I will likely try again. After all, in most cases, searching for an Action #1 is as futile as searching for a Bigfoot in your bathtub, but that doesn’t mean one will never be found; and this is a scenario where the odds seem way greater than most any other I can imagine.
The location is right. (New York was the capital of comics.)
The time period is right. (Action #1 came out in 1938 so surely many copies were still lying around when people began storing trunks under Stuy Town.)
And to me, that amount of nostalgia packed all in one place bodes well.
Therefore even I, a person who has trouble concentrating if my finger accidentally grazes a sticky cup holder at the movies, would be willing to become a Detective, slide on gloves, and risk a rat carcass or two if it meant I might discover some Action.
Who’s with me?