Targeting Reuse

Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World (Arrow) has hit a bull's eye with its building materials reuse center in Long Island City, N.Y.

Thirteen years ago, Arrow began as a recycling and gardening organization looking for a way to further beautify its community. Aware of successful building reuse centers in other cities, such as Portland, Ore., and Berkeley, Calif., the nonprofit organization decided to try its hand in the reuse business, too.

In December 2002, Arrow was awarded a Waste Prevention Community Coordinators Program grant by Inform, a New York-based nonprofit environmental research organization, which allowed Arrow to open its reuse center and hire a program manager to direct operations. Funding for the grant was provided by the New York City Council through the Department of Sanitation.

Now, the center accepts donations of light fixtures, cabinets, windows, lumber, plywood and other construction materials, as well as furnishings, used clothing, books and art supplies. Items are priced for sale at 50 percent below wholesale prices.

Reusable items are displayed at Arrow's 3,000-square-foot facility, which includes a showroom for materials and eventually will house an education center for community workshops. At press time, the center had been open only three weeks, during which it had diverted 1.5 tons of material, completed 16 hours of pickups and four hours of drop-offs.

Although the center is in its infancy, Arrow hopes to be completely self-sufficient within the next two to three years, according to Nicole Tai, program manager for Arrow's reuse center.

However, the center must overcome a few challenges. Inform's grant will maintain the center for approximately eight months, at which time other funding will be necessary. Tai expects the center will be awarded more funding, but she says it may be difficult to find a larger space as the center grows.

“The costs in New York are so expensive,” Tai says. “It's just not feasible to buy or lease a piece of property.” Arrow is hoping the city will subsidize a space or a donor will provide property.

In the meantime, Arrow accepts materials by appointment or on shopping days. Pickups also may be scheduled for residents who are not able to bring materials to the store. The center is open for shopping on Wednesdays and Saturdays. All donations are tax deductible. For more information, call (646) 641-7583.