Biggest tag sale draws crowd
BY DAN BELL
October 16, 2004
From smelly sneakers to posh pumps, yesterday’s giant jumble sale for the city’s public schools ran the gamut from bric-a-brac to pret-a-porter.
By midmorning, hundreds of bargain hunters at what was billed as “the biggest tag sale ever in Central Park” snaked a quarter of a mile under the yellowing leaves from Ramsey Playfield to 69th Street. More than 300,000 items were donated by local businesses, and proceeds from the three-day event will go to support library improvements and after-school sports programs.
Inside the high-tech tenting, uptown girls with sharp eyes for sharp deals mingled with regular joes looking for regular clothes: It was like a core sample straight through New York’s social strata.
Arranged in the huge expanse, atop sparkling electric-blue artificial turf, were ranks of racks bulging with cellophane-wrapped orange Halloween-ware, pink heart-shaped Rugrats pencil boxes and piles of old shoes. Marsha Simmons, 55, of Cobble Hill, rifled through a menagerie of porcelain pets and described the conditions at PS 152 in Brooklyn, where she teaches fifth grade.
“We’re in the basement and when it rains it leaks. It’s very disturbing for the kids,” she said. “We’re the technology school and we have four computers — two don’t work and one they can’t touch. That leaves one for 35 kids. We keep getting promised Internet access but we don’t get it. I’ve been there a year.”
Simmons said she buys classroom supplies from her own pocket. While teachers receive a $200 yearly allowance for “consumables,” this year that money was gone before school even started, spent on classroom decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said.
“Some kids come with supplies, but others haven’t got the money, and I don’t want to embarrass them to death, so I have to give them what they need,” the teacher said. This year she also spent $250 on a photocopier for her classroom.
On the other side of the tent, a translucent white veil separated the main area from an inner sanctum of secondhand chic. Dubbed “The Special Area” by a voice over the public address system, the back room was stocked with knocked-down designer gear donated by the likes of actress Sarah Jessica Parker, co-chair of the event, entertainer Bette Midler and actress Candice Bergen.
Shoppers had to wait for 20 minutes just to get in. But according to one dedicated style sleuth, it was worth it. “I waited on line outside for an hour and a half, so I’ll spend an hour and a half here, that’s the formula,” said Barbara Yarnell, 45, from Old Westbury. Already a new owner of two formerly Midler-owned sweater sets, she was far from done.
“I’m looking for the unusual possessed by the special,” Yarnell said. “Look, there’s another load! Follow the man!” By 12:30 p.m., a vintage red-plaid Chanel suit had gone in the silent auction for $500. In the same lot was a Bergen sweater for $175 and a Midler butterfly purse for $200. Still to come were Whitney Houston’s green snakeskin knee-high boots.
Back in the bargain basement, Simmons still sorted through the racks of old Rollerblades and alarm-clock radios.
“Coming from Texas where there are no private schools, and a poor kid sits next to the child of a lawyer, I was shocked,” she said, referring to conditions in the city’s public schools. “Here, the wealthy kids go to private schools, so there is no incentive for their parents to improve conditions in public schooling.
“There are some wonderful people in the public system who really care, but it’s hard for one person to help that many kids, and we do need the books,” she said.