new york secrets

by Anna Balkrishna and Erin O’Hara

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  • Pneumatic Tubes
    Pneumatic tubes are a lingering ghost of New York's past. Once upon a time, they were used to shuttle mail (and, on one occasion in the late 19th century, a cat—don't worry, it survived) around the City and often across the Brooklyn Bridge. Nowadays they're scarce, even moreso since the New York Public Library, probably the most famous place to see them in action, has ceased use of its system—though of course the tubes still exist. Previously, slips of paper bearing book requests would be shot via tube seven floors down to the stacks, where the desired book would be located and sent up on a Ferris wheel–type apparatus. Roosevelt Island, a small residential isle between Manhattan and Queens in the East River, uses extra-large pneumatic tubes to transport all of its garbage directly from buildings to the transfer facility, where it's automatically separated into light and heavy items and compacted for pickup. —EO

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