Hoboken's robotic garage faces new delay

Hoboken's robotic garage faces new delay

March 19, 2007 JJ

HOBOKEN - After three months, the patience of customers hoping to return to the Garden Street automated garage by the end this month will be tested a little longer.

The company that contracted to get the futuristic garage at 916 Garden St. up and running again is unlikely to meet a March deadline announced by the Hoboken Parking Authority.

The city now hopes the garage will reopen next month, said Patrick Ricciardi, the city's information technology officer. But he said the city will only announce the exact date after receiving a progress report from the Israel-based Unitronics.

Haim Shani, CEO of Unitronics, only promises to get part of the garage operational by April, saying he has six months to complete the work.

Shani said that the company quickly installed equipment to make the first floor operational. According to city officials, just 10 original customers are back to "test the equipment."

During a visit on Wednesday, a reporter saw empty packing cases in front of two of the four loading bays.

The garage opened in 2002, after delays and cost overruns, as the first-in-the-nation automated parking garage. Through a series of platforms and pulleys, the garage would automatically park a car precisely in a spot, then retrieve it when the customer returned. There were a few problems - including cars that were trapped inside the garage, and a few cars that were accidentally dropped by the machinery.

Last year, the original builder and operator of the garage - Robotics Parking - was booted by the city after it asked to increase its monthly operating fee from $23,250 to $27,900.

A court ordered, however, that Robotics Parking's equipment and software couldn't be operated by another company, so Unitronics was contracted in December for $2 million to replace the existing equipment and write new software to operate it.

According to city officials, Unitronics has had trouble importing materials from Israel. Shani said importing issues with U.S. Customs and the Department of Homeland Security were routine and would be cleared up soon.

"It is going exactly as scheduled," Haim said. "If we have a delay, it is less than one week, which is normal in this type of project."

Some customers say they've been kept in the dark about the garage's status, and are just about ready to give up on the automated garage.


Comments (1)

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