In 2024, Polo Grounds Towers in West Harlem will become the first in public housing across the nation to host a state-of-the-art pneumatic waste collection system to collect both trash and recyclables. Working with NYCHA Sustainability and the Polo Grounds Resident Tenant Association from May to December 2022, Hester Street (HST) engaged the community to inform Polo Grounds residents of the process and to lead educational installations on the pneumatic system.
In March 2023, HST released a community engagement field report which introduces the new pneumatic waste collection system and includes key takeaways and recommendations from residents who participated in a series of public workshops on its design and functionality. Polo Grounds residents provided a wide array of input for incorporation in the final construction plan. Residents expressed a keen interest in the provision of an upgraded waste collection system that would be safe and accessible for residents of all ages and abilities by implementing proper signage and ADA-accessible features. Participants recommended establishing regular, accessible, and ongoing engagements and educational opportunities for residents throughout the construction process, including setting up pages on the NYCHA website with further information, how-to-guides and alerts on the project status. They also wanted to ensure that resident education and engagements were incorporated into new NYCHA procedures and practices once the new system was activated.
On Family Picnic Day in June 2023, the HST team hosted activities to engage and educate the community about the new system, and promote a culture of recycling at Polo Grounds through interactive kid/family-friendly activities such as a recycling toss game, Q&A suggestion board, free giveaways, raffle prizes, and a Polaroid photo station for Recycling Heroes & Heroines. Over 120 residents of all ages participated across the four-hour event. Residents also engaged with Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and New York State Assemblymember Al Taylor, who both visited Hester Street’s station to test their recycling knowledge and recycling toss skills.