Is the AVAC down for good? Views of the future for Southtown

Is the AVAC down for good? Views of the future for Southtown

Is the AVAC down for good? The question can’t be avoided now that almost half a year has passed since the system functioned consistently from Rivercross south. The absence of sane answers from RIOC suggests that the state is lost.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

With the AVAC Down…

With the AVAC down, piles of black bags proliferate.
With the AVAC down since May, piles of smelly black bags grow to colossal lengths in a repeating cycle.

Once an exceptional feature of life on Roosevelt Island, the AVAC is a relatively simple pneumatic tube system sucking garbage into compactors before pickup by Sanitation. Remarkably flawless until this year, RIOC extended the system in both directions as new housing complexes came on line. Those extensions may have overtaxed a once sturdy system.

Even in Manhattan, with a denser population, visible evidence of trash collections seldom gets this bad. And this is the least offensive scene in Southtown.

At least in part because RIOC is so secretive and frequently dishonest, answers are hard to come by.

Initially, the state agency that never makes a mistake simply clammed up. Until reporting in The Daily flushed them out, it was as if collections were swinging along as they always have.

But, of course, they weren’t. Southtown hallways filled with stink as building access tubes backed up with raw garbage.

Some refuse rooms in Southtown backed up so much with the AVAC down, you couldn’t open the doors.

RIOC Tries, Fails To Explain

Forced out of its cave of silence, RIOC said the jam up was caused by a bed frame carelessly chucked down a chute. The were, however, working diligently with the Dept. of Sanitation at getting it out.

But that explanation registered as not quite right when you figured it had already gone on for two months, at least. Plus, how would anyone get anything as large as a bed frame in, in the first place?

By now, in October, it looks like an outright lie because they said they finally got it out, weeks ago, although the claim went suspiciously with any evidence. No photo of that horrible bed frame.

RIOC even took time to pat itself and its “team” on the back. But that was premature; the AVAC remains down. Consistent service has not returned to Southtown or Rivercross.

Along with the esthetically appalling street scenes in Southtown, consider this: building services must take on additional labor, handling trash that’s supposed to disappear down a chute. When that happens, other duties, like cleaning hallways, must be skipped.

If Not a Bed Frame, What?

Here’s where it gets tricky. An AVAC down without explanation implies some level of incompetence. Abandoning the bed frame or any other reason, RIOC’s most recent community alert simply reported that the City Department of Sanitation was working on it.

Gone was the proud RIOC team congratulated earlier, but that’s more scary when you think about it. Although RIOC, increasingly under president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, is brilliant at palming off blame on someone – anyone — else, the AVAC, south of the compacting station near 40 River Road, is RIOC’s alone.

Sanitation has no responsibility for the tube system itself. What the state agency that never gets it wrong is telling us is that they are essentially clueless, praying for a rescue, laying off blame.

Daily scenes, like this, are now common, but RIOC has no answer.

AVAC Down… Forever

With five months passed without consistent operations and no end in sight, it’s possible, even likely, that the pneumatic tubes are out for good. If RIOC can’t fix or even explain it after this long, the writing may be on the wall.

With its masterful, alleged Communications Team silent, RIOC might just be trapped in its extended scheme of dodging accountability by saying nothing at all. Can’t be accused of lying or misleading if you don’t say anything.

But that’s the optimistic explanation because, maybe, there’s a secret repair being set up. And again, RIOC can crow about their team’s amazing success. But we don’t think so.

The question begging an answer may meet permanent silence and, eventually, locked AVAC chutes and Manhattan-style piles of smelling garbage lining the street, over and over.

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