The Ugly AVAC Breakdown Now Extends Trash Heaps Through Roosevelt Landings


The crisis caused by a nearly six month AVAC breakdown grew, this week,as the trash collection mess extended into Roosevelt Landings. Roosevelt Landings is the community’s largest resident complex. Photos of smelly trash bags, stacked at curbs, Manhattan-style, underscores RIOC incompetence as well as indifference.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The AVAC Breakdown Grows

New York City Department of Sanitation crew picks up bags left out along the length of Tony Capobianco Field.

Early in the week, a Roosevelt Landing’s resident reported, on Facebook, that the crisis created by the long AVAC breakdown added her building. But by week’s end, residents from Westview got their share as piles of black trash bags accrued across the street.

Smelly, rat-attracting trash left out on street corners for pick up is one of Manhattan’s least attractive features. Now, Roosevelt Island joins the distressed crowd. And it’s not just rats. One prominent resident reports spotting a bat, and bats don’t live alone.

RIOC: Clueless on Main Street, But Indifferent and Dishonest Too

First signs of trouble came in May when RIOC pushed a brief advisory: “The Department of Sanitation is working to fix the AVAC system and will be picking up trash in the interim to keep island clean. We will keep everyone informed of their progress,” they wrote on the 28th.

The AVAC is RIOC’s responsibility, and it was never clear why DOS, not them, was working on it.

But they did not inform “everyone of their progress” until August 11th, when this came out:

The east side line of Roosevelt Island’s automated vacuum collection (AVAC) system has been damaged by a bed frame that was disposed of, which is the cause of the obstruction. Due to this obstruction, eight residential buildings’ garbage disposal, via the AVAC system, has been impacted. 

Our AVAC service provider, who is based in Spain and Sweden, and is the only service provider that specializes in maintenance and repairs of the AVAC system, has been and is currently restricted from traveling to the United States due to the pandemic. As an alternative, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) has been working with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to try to safely clear the obstruction. Because these attempts have been unsuccessful, RIOC is vetting other potential solutions to clear the obstruction without causing further damage to the AVAC system. 

Trash from the impacted buildings is being collected by the DSNY until the obstruction can be cleared. RIOC will update the community as this remediation progresses and is working with all building managers to reiterate to their tenants, the importance of only placing authorized objects in the AVAC system for disposal to prevent this inconvenience in the future. 

RIOC Advisory, August 11th, 2021


Switching Gears on the AVAC Breakdown

By September, the AVAC breakdown was over, according to president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes: “After a long battle with a bed frame, the AVAC system is now up and running as usual! We owe a big thanks to our RIOC engineering team and Owner Representatives, LiRo, who worked in conjunction with the New York City Department of Sanitation to clear the obstruction,” he wrote in RIOC News. That was published on September 24th, echoing language used a week before in an advisory.

But as with so many things gushing out of RIOC, it wasn’t true. For much of Southtown, for example, unreliable AVAC service continued uninterrupted since May. The “battle with a bed frame” ruse looked shaky, at best, and so does the future of the system.

Never before scenes on Roosevelt Island, piles of black trash bags contrast the changing leaves of August.

Finally, on October 7th, starkly lacking detail, RIOC pumped out yet another “advisory.” But what about the bed frame?

Please be advised that the AVAC system is under service repair at the following locations:

  • 531 Main St.
  • South of the AVAC plant (728 Main St.) to 460 Main St. (along the east side line)

The NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is currently onsite working on the issue.

Working on the AVAC Breakdown

By “working on the issue,” RIOC apparently means picking up the trash. There is no visible work going on anywhere along the AVAC system, not even since the massive breakdown added Roosevelt Landings.

And, of course, the state agency that never makes a mistake has nothing more to say, no updates, no accountability but, worst of all, plenty of indifference. They don’t live here. This is home for those paying the bills for RIOC operations, not the elites picking up fat paychecks, gobbling up real estate, free parking and the few open spaces remaining.

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