By Bill Parry
The New York Rangers were not the only winners on New Year’s Day, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres in overtime, 3-2, in the NHL’s Winter Classic at Citi Field before a sold-out crowd of 42,000 very chilly spectators.
Materials for the Arts, the Long Island City-based program of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs that supports thousands of nonprofit organizations with arts programming and public schools throughout the city, is receiving the nearly 18,000 square feet of plywood that was used to build the outdoor hockey rink. The wood is a donation from the NHL.
The wood, which will be delivered to Material for the Arts’ 35,000-square-foot warehouse at 33-00 Northern Blvd. by the end of the week, will end up at a surprising destination that has little to do with art, however.
“We contacted our member organizations to see what there needs are and decided to send it on to the city’s Department of Sanitation,” said Harriet Taub, Materials for the Arts’ executive director. “They are one of our city agency partners, and they said they could use the wood to bulk up their salt sheds and domes.
“I guess you could say we can think of salt sheds as a work of art. We are arts-oriented, but we are multifaceted, and the big thing here is the reuse. It would be such a shame for all of this clean wood, with no nails, to end up in a landfill somewhere.”
Materials for the Arts collects unneeded items from businesses and individuals and finds where they can be useful.
“If it wasn’t Sanitation, we would have gone to the Parks Department,” Taub said. “We’re like the 40-year-old matchmaker. We just move it along to an organization in need, and our network is pretty deep. We put the haves together with the have-nots, and we’re not people who say no.”
Recycle Track Systems, a 3-year-old Manhattan-based waste and recycling management technology company, was contacted by the NHL.
“We have a relationship with Citi Field and the Mets, so there was a connection made with the NHL,” Recycle Track CEO Greg Lettieri said. “They wanted to recycle as much of the material from the Winter Classic as they could. Materials for the Arts has been one of our partners for three years, and when there’s an opportunity to donate reusable material to them, that is our preference.”
Lettieri, whose family lives in Ozone Park, where his father attended John Adams High School, envisions a long relationship with Materials for the Arts.
“Some of our clients will have high-end office furniture or lighting fixtures, and we always check with Materials for the Arts to see if we can donate the material to them,” Lettieri said. “They’ve been a great partner for us, absolutely.”
Materials for the Arts doesn’t just provide a way for companies and individuals to donate unneeded supplies to thousands of nonprofit organizations and schools. It also offers a wide variety of events, workshops and classes to help people see and experience creative reuse up close.
“Not for nothing, but we’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Taub said with a laugh. “We were green back when green was just a color.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr