As AVAC Crisis Now Worsens, RIOC Retreats In Silence

As AVAC Crisis Now Worsens, RIOC Retreats In Silence

The AVAC crisis, we learned yesterday, has grown much worse. Now six months long, RIOC predicts as much as another half-year before it’s fixed. The information, of course, did not come from the state agency that never gets it wrong.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

How Bad Is The AVAC Crisis Now?

Since May, huge piles of black trash bags reminded Southtown residents that AVAC system was broken. RIOC never got around to notifying the public until July.

The now long history of RIOC’s fumbling through the AVAC crisis took a new turn on Friday when Rivercross tenants got bad news.

“Can someone at RIOC explain exactly what is taking so long to repair the AVAC system?” a resident asked President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes. “It is time for the real story to come out!”

Provoking her was an email from the Rivercross Tenants’ Corp. Until now, only the south wing in Rivercross had lost AVAC service, black bags left hanging from trash chute handles. But, the email said, the north wing was going down too. This leaves only Island House, Westview, Manhattan Park and The Octagon with regular trash services.

That, however, was not the worst of it.

“Due to water infiltration in the underground vacuum tubes, the chutes in both wings may remain closed for three to six months,” it said. For the earliest victims of the AVAC crisis in Southtown, that threatens reaching the one year mark. Lying by RIOC has no expiration date, however, and it could be much longer, like permanent.

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Then, a bed frame. Now, flooding…

“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.”

This lumbering excuse RIOC put out in August was false, but it served a purpose for RIOC. It enabled assigning blame to someone, anyone, else and evading their own accountability. A few weeks later, they patted themselves on the back, claiming they’d removed that pesky bed frame. All was well again. But that wasn’t true either.

For some Roosevelt Islanders, garbage back ups like this started back in May.

For some Southtown buildings, the AVAC crisis has been unrelenting for six months already. Foul smelling refuse rooms, stink leaking down hallways, never stopped.

Residents now know that, at a minimum “…water infiltration in the underground vacuum tubes” causes some of the disruption. But that’s a euphemism, while long gone is the bed frame gambit.

RIOC and the AVAC Crisis

“The AVAC system will be under assessment and undergo service repair for the next 10 days starting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 9th,” RIOC said. “Service updates will be provided as they become available.”

That, of course, was another lie. Not only were service updates never provided, as promised, but residents were not told about the major issue. How long has RIOC known that “water infiltration” meant a hole had broken open in the tubes? Now, as the flooding creeps northward, when will they come clean about the full extent of the damage? How did it happen? Underground tubes are not affected by bad weather…

Three to six months before a return to service sounds more like a guess than a reliable technical estimate. What needs fixing during that long period? And are they really sure they can fix it?

After six months of little truth-telling, can residents be confident RIOC has a clue? Will the AVAC ever be back?

And that brings up the larger question surrounding the state agency overseen by Governor Andrew Cuomo-in-a-Dress. When will RIOC’s Albany handlers do anything about the accumulating series of messes hitting Roosevelt Island over the past year? Is there any chance the patronage poisoned team collecting bloated salaries will be dealt with?

You might imagine that mishandling the AVAC crisis so badly might provoke something more than residents’ frustration. But patronage and party loyalty powered the last Albany administration, and nothing so far suggests that stranglehold on change has lessened.

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