ople are always looking for things in New York City. Sometimes it’s things they have lost and other times it’s things they never had.
Some of the things they lose are heartbreaking, like loved ones or pets. Other times they are more of an inconvenience, like a portfolio or camera.
The things they want vary widely. People are keen to sell or rent apartments or invite others to join political rallies or religious services. They are hoping to drum up support for candidates or mobilize friends to adopt social causes.
An amazing number of these people opt to advertise their need or communicate their desire by drafting a flyer. They attach the papers to street lamps. The sheets chronicle both loss and opportunity, love sought and love lost.
These signs give Manhattan — home to 1.6 million people- the feeling of a small town, a village where residents reach out for basic needs. I’ve collected examples from the Upper West Side.
While the designs and professionalism vary considerably, the messages they contain are often detailed, expressive and poetic. “Someone took my black and white pitbull upon the night of 6–7/9 2015,” someone posted on a lamp pole on 106th street.
“A family member of mine went to the C-Town Supermarket at 560 W. 125th street on Friday 9/11 and left my Brown Chihuahua tied to the metal pole in front of the super market and when I came home from work and did not see her they told me the tragic news,” a Marine wrote in one flyer.
“I love her so much and miss her so much. She is also on meds and needs her medication. I need her ASAP.”
The signs aren’t always people looking for pets. Sometimes, the pets were found and the flyer is aimed at finding the owners.
The Missing Person signs are almost too heartbreakingly sad to read. Fortunately, they are rare.
Other signs are alarming, reminding us the city isn’t as safe as many of us believe. This one offers a reward for information leading to the capture of a sexual predator. The sign is scribbled in magic marker, as if to underscore the urgency of the message.
Not every sign is sad or scary. Some are strangely optimistic. Dan Perino, an actor, became a celebrity when he posted ads seeking a girlfriend. He later told New York magazine that the flyers helped him hook up with 118 girls. Now, he’s using crowd sourcing to raise money for a documentary about how to find a girlfriend.
Most people who find things probably keep them. But some small number of Manhattan residents go to long efforts to return items. This person found a camera and even set up a generic gmail account to locate the owner.
It’s more common to see signs for lost items. This guy lost a bunch of paintings. He helpfully includes some pictures and offers a reward, something you usually only see for dogs and cats.
Most real estate is advertised via web sites like Trulia or in the New York Times. Its not clear why Josh decided to post a relatively high-end Harlem penthouse on a street corner. The apartment even has its own web site.
Churches post a surprising number of flyers encouraging people to attend services. Some of the churches offer incentives beyond the opportunity to worship. This one in Harlem, for instance, offered a meal and free hair cuts.
The Mormons reference the Broadway musical Book of Mormon to attract attention. The people who wrote it may or may not have seen the play, which doesn’t always depict the religion in a favorable light.
There are signs posted for political candidates.
And signs for political movements.
Some flyers don’t ask for anything more than for you to be your best.
And others remind us that the city can still be a magical place. According to a web site, thousands of people called into a hot line with details of unicorn sightings after this sign appeared.
**Published by Ted Merz May 5, 2016**