Ever wonder why you don’t see garbage trucks on the streets of Roosevelt Island? Or why there aren’t any smelly piles of trash bags on the corners? You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but just inches beneath the feet of every Roosevelt Islander, garbage is shooting through a network of tubes at 35 miles per hour. Leftovers, empty toothpaste tubes—it’s all down there. It’s a special system, and one of the only in the country!

In 2010, CUP and students from Roosevelt Island’s The Child School, along with artist Juliette Spertus, visited the island’s trash collection facility to learn how the garbage from the school gets whisked away and processed.

The students learned about all the parts of the “automated vacuum collection” (AVAC) system, from the pneumatic tubes that suck the trash out of the buildings to the compactor that presses the trash into its final shape before it gets shipped off the island. They made a users’ guide for island residents to keep the tubes from getting jammed, as well as a poster showing how the different parts of the system work.

Their work was included in an exhibit at the RIVAA Gallery on Roosevelt Island in the Spring of 2010.

Resources & Links

Fast Trash is an exhibit on the Roosevelt Island AVAC system, created by Juliette Spertus.

The Child School is a K-8 school on Roosevelt Island.

Project Projects is a design studio focusing on print, identity, exhibition, and interactive work with clients in art and architecture.

RIVAA Gallery is exhibit space on Roosevelt Island, run by the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided in part by the Bay and Paul Foundations.

Special Thanks

Billy Dash, TJ Krysiewicz, and Jerry Sorgente (AVAC facility), Maari De Souza (The Child School), Mariana Mogilevich, Samir Shah, and Maria Sotiropoulou (CUP volunteers), and Adam Michaels, Guglielmo Rossi, and Chris Wu (Project Projects).


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Valeria Mogilevich
    • Project Support
    • Christine Gaspar
      Juliette Spertus
    • The Child School 
    • Students
    • Jose Benitez
    • Charlie Brister-Ramirez
    • Freddy Domenech
    • James Patrick Escalante
    • Avery Fennick
    • Isaack Nudell
    • Matt Patterson
    • Stephen Purk
    • Isaiah Reed

      • Camille Moquino


      Whoosh! The Trash Can as a Pneumatic Tube
      • The New York Times
      • April 09, 2010

      Underneath the 40-block strip of land between Queens and Manhattan known as Roosevelt Island is a complex system of pneumatic tubes that connects the island’s 12,000 or so residents. But it’s not mail that’s hurtling through them at at 30 miles an hour. It’s garbage.