The hoarder who turned the Upper West Side block into his own personal junkyard is a talented fashion designer who once admitted that she “had no aspirations for sanity.”
Timothy John, who angered the locals by hiding heaps of trash along the sidewalks of West 77th Street and Columbus Avenue, was known to his artsy friends as a creative designer with a penchant for turning trash into fashion.
“He is one of the most talented designers I have ever seen in my life,” said New York City artist Mel Odom. “I don’t know what brought him to this point in his life.”
“What happened is really embarrassing,” Odom said this week. “He’s a genius in many ways. This is heartbreaking. ”
John was born in Washington, DC, and lived in Maryland and Virginia before moving to the Big Apple, according to a 2013 interview about fashion site stylelikeu.com.
“I don’t have any aspirations for sanity,” he said said during the interview. “When I look around and see what is considered normal, I am not tempted. I don’t think normal exists, but a lot of people try to conform to some standards that they consider normal. “
“In fact, a large part of my wardrobe is basically rubble from other people’s lives, other people’s travels, other people’s experiences,” she says.
John did not respond to many calls and messages from The Post and did not answer the door of his apartment on the Upper West Side.
Spencer Throckmorton, owner of the Throckmorton Fine Art Gallery on East 57th Street – and a former classmate of John at Virginia Commonwealth University – said his old school friend was “doing some things in fashion”.
“He went to Cali, Colombia, and he did a show there last year,” he said. “He’s usually quiet. As an art collector, she looks for bargains at flea markets and items that can be put in fashion. “
“He’s reusing and reinventing old fashion,” says Throckmorton.
Another friend, San Francisco resident Susan Vanasco-Howell, who developed a long distance acquaintance with John, said she told him she started selling things – but made no mention that it was trash on the sidewalk.
“He told me, ‘You wouldn’t believe how many treasures I found on the street because people were moving from New York City and throwing things away,'” said Vanasco-Howell.
“I think it must have gotten out of hand,” he added.
Vanasco-Howell said he became so concerned about his friend in January that he called the police for a health check after not hearing from him in days.
He said the two used to talk every day.
“I did it from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “I’m worried because I haven’t heard from him and it was winter in New York City during the pandemic, and he lives alone.”
John made the news this week when The Post reported that he had piled trash – from chairs to clothes – on the sidewalks near the city’s high school, sparking environmental complaints.
City sanitation workers eventually moved and clean up debris, while the police issue a summons for John for storing property on the sidewalk.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said this week that he had sent a letter to city officials in early November complaining about the garbage heap.
“Mr. John has been visited many times by the Street Outreach Team,” Brewer’s office said in an email. “Mr. John visited the outreach office and expressed interest in storage. “
Brewer also holds an interagency meeting in January to deal with public chaos.
“Objects and debris grow every day and attract rodents, blocking sidewalks and masking unacceptable behavior such as urinating in public places,” Brewer wrote in a Feb. 24 letter to various city agencies, including resources. human and police.
Even though the trash has now been cleaned up, John still lives in the chaos of the house.
Elias Wester, superintendent of the John Building on West 82nd Street, says he’s become increasingly disorganized in recent months – and now has an apartment full of rubbish and debris too.
“He needs help,” Wester said.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner
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