In New York: Salvaged Pieces

Something decidedly odd is going on at the old mansion. The crackle of splintering wood emanates from the broken windows. A bathroom sink of heroic proportions has been plunked down on the overgrown lawn, and a man is chipping at a graffiti-painted wall with hammer and chisel. "Alllll right! " he says with a smile. "This stone is so wet it's going to come right off with a jackhammer."

To suspicious New York City residents, the activity in Far Rockaway, a seaside community of modest homes near the city's John F. Kennedy Airport, may look like a felony in progress. But...