Boerum Hill/ Gowanus

The hidden cheap electronics warehouse of Gowanus

Happy little electronics. Photos by Tim Donnelly.
Happy little electronics on the wall of the warehouse. Photos by Tim Donnelly.

I recently found my old Nintendo 64 back in my possession after my mother finally vacated our house in New Jersey and forced me to reclaim all my old crap I stockpiled as a kid. But there were no controllers, which means my desire to eradicate my friends with green turtle shells in MarioKart was thwarted! Since this is not exactly 1999, you can’t just roll down to your neighborhood Toys R Us and pick one up. The options were: 1) buying a new, pricey but off-brand one out of one of those dicey little used game shops near Fulton Mall; or 2) buy one on Ebay for a better price of $15-25, though you never quite know how much the previous owner’s jam hands have gunked up the joystick.

That’s when someone told me about the Lower East Side’s Ecology Center E-waste warehouse in Gowanus. I originally pictured a mountain of old wires and broken keyboards; instead, it’s more like a cross between the robot junkyard of Wall-E and an outdated Best Buy. The space is filled with an almost museum-like mix of technology from the past 20 years, from computers to Apple TVs, a lot of which is still perfectly usable and totally cheap. The idea here isn’t to make money; it’s to get as much life out of this stuff as posible. Here are some treasures you’ll find inside:

You can browse the entire stock of the warehouse online. Here are some picks from our visit:

Apple TVs! 

Retail price: $99
LES recycled price: $40-$60

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Retail: $500-$2,000
LES recycled price: $150-$270

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Speakers, assorted types

Retail: like $60-$200
LES recycled price: $5 – $80 a pair. ($5 gets you a decent set of Dell speakers; the $80 ones are mid-size floor speakers)

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Record players

Retail: Some of these cost up to $300!
LES recycled price: $30-$170

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Old-Ass Macs

Retail price: Who knows?
LES recycled price: The warehouse keeps these, and other ancient tech, around to rent out or sell for things such as movies or art projects. So if you’re making your sweded version of that Steve Jobs biopic, now you know where to go.

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Hey, they even have compost for sale! Which is not electronic, but still sweet.

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The center also has box of computer mice (mouses?) for $5 each, smartphones, routers ($10!), plus video games (Nintendo, Sega, Playstation), CDs, DVDs, all available for under $10 in most cases.

The places is run by two full-time staffers and a rotating group of volunteers. For the computers, the staff reformats them and installs open-source Linux, because they don’t have the license for Windows and the like.

The best part is, they check everything to make sure it works, and you get a 60-day warranty on every item just in case, which is pretty much better than what actual Best Buy offers you. And you can take your old electronics there for recycling or, if it still works, a possible second life.

Oh, and they had the N64 controllers for just $5 each, which were in practically fresh-out-the-box condition, and work like they’re fresh out of 1999. MarioKart party, anyone??

The Lower East Side Ecology Center’s E-Waste Warehouse is at 469 President St. in Gowanus. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday for shopping or drop off.

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