The hoarder who turned an Upper West Side block into his own personal junkyard was a talented fashion designer who once admitted that he had “no aspirations for sanity.”
Timothy John, who drew the ire of locals by stashing piles of junk along the sidewalk at West 77th Street and Columbus Avenue, was known by artsy friends as a creative designer with a penchant for turning trash into fashion.
“He is one of the most talented designers I’ve seen in my life,” said New York City artist Mel Odom. “I don’t know what has brought him to this point in his life.”
“What is happening is such a shame,” Odom said this week. “He is a genius in so 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 on the fashion website stylelikeu.com.
“I have no aspirations for sanity whatsoever,” he said during the interview. “When I look around and see what’s considered normal, I am not tempted. I don’t think normal exists, but a lot of people attempt to conform to some standard they think is normal.”
“The fact of the matter is that most of my wardrobe is really basically debris from other people’s lives, other people’s travels, other people’s experiences,” he said.
John did not respond to numerous calls and messages from The Post and did not answer the door at his Upper West Side apartment.
Spencer Throckmorton, owner of the Throckmorton Fine Art Gallery on East 57th Street — and a former classmate of John’s at Virginia Commonwealth University — said his old schoolmate “did several things in fashion.”
“He went to Cali, Colombia, and he did a show there last year,” he said. “He is usually reserved. As an art collector, he looks for bargains at flea markets and objects that could be incorporated into fashion.”
“He reuses and reinvents past fashion,” Throckmorton said.
Another friend, San Francisco resident Susan Vanasco-Howell, who developed a long-distance acquaintance with John, said he told her he had begun to sell things — but didn’t mention it was junk on the sidewalk.
“He told me, ‘You won’t believe how many treasures I find on the street because people are moving from New York City and throwing things out,’” Vanasco-Howell said.
“I guess it must have gotten out of control,” she added.
Vanasco-Howell said she became so concerned about her friend in January that she called cops to do a wellness check after not hearing from him in days.
She said the two typically spoke daily.
“I did it from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “I was concerned because I hadn’t heard from him and it is the dead of winter in New York City during a pandemic, and he lives alone.”
John made news this week when The Post reported that he had piled up junk — everything from chairs to clothing — on the sidewalk near a city middle school, prompting neighbohood complaints.
City sanitation workers finally moved in and cleared away the debris, while cops issued John a summons for storing property on the sidewalk.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said this week that she had written city officials as early as November to complain about the junk pile.
“Mr. John has been visited numerous 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 held an interagency meeting in January to deal with the public clutter.
“The items and debris grow daily and attract rodents, block the sidewalk, and provide cover for unacceptable behavior such as public urination,” Brewer wrote in a Feb. 24 letter to various city agencies, including human resources and police.
Although the junk has now been cleared, John still lives amid clutter at home.
Elias Wester, the super of John’s building on West 82nd Street, said he has become increasingly disorganized in recent months — and now has an apartment full of junk and debris as well.
“He needs help,” Wester said.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Rosner