5 Remnants of NYC’s Pneumatic Tubes And Where to Find Them

5. Old Chelsea Postal Station

Not only is this Chelsea post office one of the many being put up for sale by the United States Postal Service, it once employed pneumatic tubes for convenience, according to Robert A. Cohen in this article about USPS history. The 1939 building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

4. Tuck-it-Away Headquarters (formerly H.W. Wilson)

This building, formerly the headquarters of publishing company H.W. Wilson, was fitted with pneumatic tubes to transport memos and other objects. When it became the Tuck-it-Away storage headquarters in November 2012, the quirky lighthouse on top of the building fortunately remained, but it’s unclear if the pneumatic tube system was maintained.

3. New York Public Library

According to Atlas Obscura, the main branch of the New York Public Library still uses pneumatic tubes. Paper requests for books in the stacks of the Humanities and Social Sciences library are sent down via pneumatic tubes to the staff, who locates the needed books and sends them up. With 125 miles of shelving — 88 miles in the seven stack floors of Humanities & Social Science Library and 37 miles in the two-level stack extension under Bryant Park — any form of efficiency is helpful.

2. Roosevelt Island’s AVAC/Trash Collection System

Roosevelt Island is home to the only AVAC (Automated Vacuum Collection) system in a residential community. According to NYC-Grid, “AVAC connects all the buildings on [Roosevelt] Island with a series of high-speed pneumatic tubes, which forces trash to fly under resident’s feet at 50 MPH.” Conceived as a utopian solution to minimize street trash and noise from garbage trucks, the AVAC system moves 5.8 tons of trash per day. The system can’t process everything though–large furniture, glass and construction waste are picked up separately. Last year, it was reported that transportation experts were looking at the feasibility of installing AVAC systems for the High Line and the Coney Island Boardwalk through a New York State grant.

1. Roasting Plant Coffee

This quaint little Chinatown coffee shop was founded in 2007 by its industrial engineer owner, Mike Caswell. It offers seven different types of coffee beans and makes all of its coffee fresh by roasting and grinding in small amounts. The catch? All of it is done through the use of the store’s pneumatic tubes that carry the beans around the store.

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