AVAC Often Down, Tenants Report

Vendor Says Update In Order

Some Islanders have been experiencing problems with Roosevelt Island’s AVAC garbage management system. Westview’s system, or part of it, was described at a meeting last week as recently having been out of service for several months. According to a Roosevelt Landings resident who attended the session, some part of that building’s AVAC system also was down for around four months.

Rosina Abramson, a former president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) who later served as a Vice President during the Steve Shane presidency and now works for Envac, the company that produces the AVAC system, said that the New York City Department of Sanitation (DoS) appears interested in servicing and updating the system, but that a split of responsibilities between RIOC and DoS may be hobbling any move toward getting the necessary work done. RIOC is responsible for the capital system; DoS is responsible for operating it. As with other entities that are co-managed in some way, there may be a question of just which entity should step up.

“The best thing would be to get them together in a room,” Abramson said, speaking to a handful of residents and the members of Community Board 8’s Roosevelt Island Committee. She said that a presentation had been offered to RIOC, but there has not been a response. She added that she felt the DoS would rush to the table if RIOC expressed an interest in upgrading the system.

The AVAC system sucks garbage down 20-inch pipes toward the AVAC building, which is just north of Motorgate. Island buildings have one or more AVAC rooms on each floor where residents can dump garbage down a chute. Gravity takes it to a “valve,” where it sits until, by remote control, an operator at the AVAC building opens the valve and fans start a 60-mile-per-hour windstorm that sucks the garbage into closed containers. End to end, it is a closed system that reliably denies vermin access to the Island’s refuse.

Over the years, pipes have needed repair, particularly at bends where a sidewall gets more of a beating. Sometimes, tangles of garbage have had to be cleared. Rarely, things get into the system that just don’t belong there. One story involves a sink that was tossed into the system and just wouldn’t blow to the AVAC building.

Abramson was making the presentation to the CB8 Roosevelt Island Committee by invitation and for information. That committee has access to the Island’s elected officials, who might break whatever logjam is keeping the question of repairs from being addressed.

Abramson said that 32 valves in the Island’s older buildings need replacement or repair. The design of the valves has evolved over the years. Recommended changes include upgrades at the AVAC terminal to reduce noise, improve automatic operations, and allow fuller remote monitoring of the whole system.

Asked about the status of the system, RIOC President Charlene Indelicato said she would look into it and get back to The WIRE with a response.

One question raised at the meeting was about whether Cornell Tech planned to hook up to the system. Abramson explained that Envac recommended against it, saying that the system “pulls” pretty well for up to a mile, but that the demands of the Cornell buildings were likely to be too much for the aging system. Envac recommended that the campus have its own system.

More details about Cornell’s decision to have its own system became available at last Thursday’s Town Hall. Senior Director of Capital Projects Andrew Winters explained that Cornell’s goal is to reduce the amount of garbage-truck traffic, but that Cornell will not be linking to the Island-wide AVAC. He reminded the attendees that Goldwater used garbage trucks. Winters explained that the current AVAC system is only residential, not commercial, and doesn’t do recycling. Envac advised Winters that, since the campus is more than a mile away, it would not be able to be hooked up in its current form; dramatic upgrades, including a change to a three-pipe system to incorporate recycling, would be necessary. Even with all those upgrades, Envac said the AVAC might still not be strong enough to pull garbage from Cornell.

Tags: Island Life

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