Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is This the Coolest Thing About Roosevelt Island?

One of the most striking things about New York City is the trash. It's everywhere, piled up in front of storefronts and stoops in heaping blacks bags. And it reeks, especially during the summer.

We've lived on Roosevelt Island for a month now, but it didn't occur to me until today that you don't really see the piles of trash in this part of New York. You also won't find many garbage trucks prowling the neighborhood.

Why? The reason turns out to be something quite awesome: Roosevelt Island has a giant system of vacuum tubes, where trash whooshes from place to place underground.

From the Motherboard site:
...a series of tubes that literally suck garbage from buildings at speeds up to 60 miles per hour to a central collection point, where the trash is taken off the island by truck or barge. Theoretically, that eliminates the emissions and traffic caused by giant garbage trucks, and makes trash sorting easier. 
When Roosevelt Island’s system was finished in 1976, it became the first and only such system to be installed on an urban scale in the U.S. The pneumatic tube system, said Mayor John Lindsay in 1969, "could one day replace garbage cans and household incinerators.”
So far, that hasn't happened. But the city may be ready to expand the system to other parts of New York, including Coney Island or Chelsea.

There's even a short 2010 documentary about Roosevelt Island's trash system. (I also learned that a nickname for Roosevelt Island is "Manhattan's other island," though where does that leave Randall's Island, which is also part of Manhattan?)

Perhaps the best part of all this: The next time the kids try to goof around near the trash chute, I can tell them they might get sucked in!