As you walk through the quiet community of Roosevelt Island, it may take a moment or two to realize why the neighborhood seems so different from the rest of the city. There’s its isolated location, of course, as well as the spooky remnants of notorious institutions that once called the island home (like an insane asylum and a smallpox hospital). Then it hits you—right in the nose. Wait a second, you think. Where are all the garbage cans?
Since 1975, every residential building on this two-mile stretch of land has relied on an extensive network of pneumatic tubes to suck away its inhabitants’ trash—at a swift speed of up to 60mph. Garbage is disposed of through chutes and collects below them until a trapdoor is activated, releasing the trash into the underground tubes. Approximately five times a day, employees at the Department of Sanitation flip a switch that sucks all of the garbage into the island’s Central Collections and Compaction Plant. As a result, the air is blessedly summer-trash-smell–free, and noticeably fewer rodents roam the streets.
The only other place in the country that can boast of relying on such an innovative system for trash disposal is Walt Disney World. But fortunately, New York developers seem to be waking up to all of the benefits. Related Companies is installing similar garbage-sucking systems at Hudson Yards. We can only hope that future construction projects in New York will follow suit.