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Williamsburg Man Turns Trash Into Beloved, Ragtag Sculpture Garden

By Serena Dai | December 8, 2014 7:41am
 Augustine "Churry" Carrerro's garden features Jesus statues, African figurines and a large, white pony.
Williamsburg Man Turns Trash Into Ragtag Sculpture Garden
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EAST WILLIAMSBURG — A Williamsburg man has learned the meaning of turning trash into treasure.

For three years, 64-year-old Augustine Carrerro, also known as "Churry," has collected statues and dolls from local garbage piles for a ragtag sculpture garden outside his window at Williamsburg Houses.

The small lot on Humboldt Street south of Ten Eyck Street is filled with dozens of statues in varying states of repair, from Virgin Mary and Jesus statues to large busts of Native Americans with stern faces. There is also a furry, cream-colored pony and a neon green frog.

And at the edge, a statue of a dog — despite its closed eyes — serves as the watchdog for the rest of the ornaments, Churry said.

People often stop and take pictures of the makeshift garden, and at least once a month, somebody asks to buy one of the carved, wooden African statues, Churry said.

But he never sells them.

"I love those things," Churry said. "I think it looks beautiful. It makes people happy."

Some passersby find the collection scary. "It's kind of creepy. I don't look at them," said Rasheema Smith, 25.

But many have grown fond of the medley.

The combination of Jesuses, Virgin Marys, African statues and Native American statues makes the garden look like an ode to the multicultural neighborhood, said Carmen Nieves, 66, who's lived in the area for 17 years.

"It's showing that we have peace here," she said.

Others said it's better than having nothing at all in the garden plot, even if the items are collected from people's garbage.

"It makes the neighborhood look good," said Skylynn Vazquez, 18.

Churry, who works as a mechanic, doesn't have anything specific in mind when he picks out the items he puts in the garden.

He likes white horses because he used to have one named Putto, back when he was a kid in Puerto Rico. And as a practicing Catholic, he collects many religious statues, too.

He said he sometimes feels sad when bringing home the discarded Jesus statues.

"Why did they throw this away?" he said, shaking his head. "It's Jesus Christ."

But most of the time, he just picks up what he likes as he walks his dog, a Chihuahua mix named Shan.

"I find it, I pick it up," Churry said.

The garden says a lot about what locals are throwing out, said Churry's friend, Hector Lopez, 58.

Lopez said many young Puerto Rican immigrants ditch some of the traditions of their homeland when they move to the U.S., including the religious figures of Catholicism and the Native American sculptures, a nod to many Puerto Ricans' Taino identities.

They convert religions, and they get rid of the hardware, he said.

"They throw their statues out," said Lopez, whose sisters threw out their figurines after leaving Catholicism. "They don't believe in the statues anymore."

Churry's more than happy to take them. He plans to keep adding objects to the garden forever.

"I don't like that they throw it away," he said. "They should let me know. I'll pick it up."