Breaking point in garage fight?

Breaking point in garage fight?
Firm wants more $$ from Hoboken, threatens shutdown

Friday, July 21, 2006, Jersey Journal
HOBOKEN - Those who use the Garden Street automated garage could be out on the street if the city cannot negotiate a new contract in the next 11 days with the owners of the beleaguered first-in-the-nation robot garage.

On Wednesday, Robotics Parking, Inc., the operators of 916 Garden St., distributed warning letters to the 314 tenants, notifying them their cars must be removed from the facility by Aug. 1.

The letters were distributed roughly two months after the company notified the city that it planned to increase its monthly fee for operations, maintenance and repairs from $23,250 to $27,900.

City officials refused to agree and Robotics said it was terminating its month-to-month contract.

The garage opened in 2002 after a drawn-out battle over construction delays and cost overruns.

In the past four years, the garage - which runs on an intricate system of elevators, pallets and pulleys - has been fraught with computer glitches that prevented owners from dropping off or retrieving cars for hours or days at a time.

City officials have fielded inquiries from rival companies interested in running the garage, but those companies would first need to develop compatible software since Robotics owns the licensing rights.

City Corporation Counsel Joseph Sherman said he does not expect any service interruptions, even though the city has just 11 days to reach an agreement or find another company to develop and install new software.

"Every effort will be made to accommodate every person who has a car in that garage," said Sherman.

But Dennis Clarke, general manager of Robotics, said he expects to be cleared out by Aug. 1.

"This garage is going to close at midnight (July 31)," he said. "The city has to talk to me and the city has not called to talk to me other than to threaten to have me arrested."

Clarke said Hoboken Parking Utility Director John Corea threatened to have him and one of his workers arrested for passing out fliers to customers on Wednesday.

"We have every interest, and have from Day One, in seeing that this garage runs well," Clarke said. "But we've had nothing but problems from the city and threats of arrest."

Clarke defended Robotics' record, saying the garage has a 99.9 percent reliability rating. He said the company has been forced to "subsidize" the city by paying for workers to live in Hoboken because the workers the city was supposed to provide didn't have the technical know-how to run the garage.

Residents who use the parking garage - the only one in the area - do not want to face the possibility of losing their parking spaces.

"It's really convenient, I live right here," said Adrienne Macwhannell, 33, who works in marketing. "The perfect thing is that it's right next door. I don't want to have to walk six blocks to get my car."

Comments (1)

Joe Brinkerhoff
Said this on 7-21-2006 At 12:46 am
Gee.... The City can't run a parking garage but is going into the Health Care Business. Lets see how many Hoboken politicians get medical treatment at the Hoboken Municipal Hospital for themselves and family.

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