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STV Brings Transformative Improvements to the New York City Housing Authority

Mar 6, 2024
render of building, parking lot, and parking lot

On the border between New York’s Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods lies the four-building Polo Ground Towers, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing development with more than 1,600 resident units. In the first residential public housing improvement project of its kind in the United States, STV’s Construction Management (CM) team is guiding a transformative project aimed at revitalizing this community while making substantial enhancements in how public housing handles waste.

The pneumatic waste collection system program at Polo Ground Towers is a trailblazing design-build project that aims at revolutionizing waste management processes while significantly reducing operating costs for NYCHA.

Once complete, powerful tubes will collect trash and recycling debris from the four, 30-story resident towers, and transport the waste underground at up to 60 miles per hour through a series of tubes, to a new terminal/collection building for storage and removal. This new system mitigates the need to transport waste from each building and will centralize waste removal off-site, and away from residents.

render of mechanics of building

Additionally, with this change, the resources that would typically be dedicated to trash management can be refocused on other public uses. NYCHA also anticipates significant reductions in the need for pest management.

“The waste collection system isn’t just a game-changer for NYCHA,” said Vincent Zito, CCM, DBIA vice president, and project executive. “It’s an innovation that showcases one of the many ways NYCHA is helping to improve this 3,942-resident community.”

STV is providing Construction Management-Agency (CMa) services for the project, which includes procuring and managing the sub-consultants for air monitoring, special inspections, and commissioning. The team will also coordinate all required testing, commissioning, and inspections, and provide the design review services for the constructability, submittals, schedules and coordination of contractors, residents, the project team, and other stakeholders.

Chief among the project’s challenges is the coordination of a multi-phase conversion to the pneumatic collection system for all residents: from the demolition of existing compactor rooms to the installation of new equipment and technology to testing and implementation.

render of building in park

Traditionally in the U.S., pneumatic systems are often used for bank drive-thrus and hospitals, making this a truly unique concept for public housing waste management. Outside of Europe and Asia, these waste systems have only been implemented in the United States in Disney World and Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island – which are now more than 50 years old.

Polo Ground Towers is an ideal housing location for piloting this system. Residents in its four towers generate an average of 5-to-6 tons of waste each day and the site is being developed to be incredibly scalable. To that end, with Polo Grounds being near NYCHA’s Rangel Houses, the pneumatic project has been sized to accommodate future connections to neighboring public housing.

The next steps for STV’s CM and NYCHA’s design-build team include coordinating the installation of fans, the excavation and installation of pneumatic pipes, the replacement and installation of various collection systems, and upgrading all four buildings’ compactor rooms.