GBU Automated Parking Garage 08/04/2006

Political Commentary: The GOOD, BAD, UGLY

Hoboken 916 Garden Street Automated Garage
August 4, 2006


Thanks to Federal District Court Judge Stanley Chesler sitting in Newark, an agreement between city officials and the former operators of the Garden Street automated garage has been reached, allowing the city to license the software that operates the intricate system of elevators, pallets and pulleys from Robotics Parking Inc., of Clearwater, Fla., for $5,500 a month for a three-year-period. 

"This agreement gives Hoboken much more flexibility in operating the facility in a manner that will better serve the community and the customers," said Mayor David Roberts. "I was always uncomfortable with the previous agreement and our lack of control to manage and maintain the garage. This is a clear victory for the city." 

The BAD:
The agreement does not prohibit Robotics from suing the city for copyright infringement.   If successful, Robotics claims it could win as much as $18 million dollars from the city in both civil and criminal penalties for allowing the city to bring another company in to copy trade secrets.

The city intends to sign a month-to-month contract with Israel-based Unitronics to provide operations and maintenance at the first-in-the-nation garage. The city will pay Unitronics the same amount as Robotics' former contract - $23,250 a month.  Add in the additional $5,500 a month software licensing fee and that monthly payment quickly climbs to $28,750 without taking into consideration the "incidental" costs for equipment replacement, etc.

In May, 2002, a local newspaper reported that there were two conflicting reports written about the Performance Validation Testing that was held on May 3, 2002.  One report submitted by an engineering firm hired by the insurance company that held the performance bonds on the garage said that the tests were a success.  The second report, submitted by an engineering firm hired by the Hoboken Parking Authority pointed out several system failures during the test.

In response, on June 6, 2002, Mayor David Roberts formed a task force uncover the current status of the 324-car automated garage.  The investigation will begin immediately, and the mayor expects an initial report of findings and recommendations to be completed within the next two weeks.  The investigation started by the Hoboken Police Department was abruptly stopped and forwarded to the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, never to be heard of again.

The automated 916 Garden Street garage was $5 million over budget in construction costs.  During the past 40 months, Hoboken has expended well over a million dollars for technical staffing to operate the facility.  Additional costs for equipment maintenance, spare parts, and incidentals are unknown.  Profit and Loss statements for the past 42 months  have never been released to the public.

To that amount add the additional costs associated with bringing in a new company, equipment and software modifications, and the potential for litigation.

Only time will tell if Mayor Roberts made the right decision in allowing the garage to be accepted as conforming to the contract specifications when there was more than enough justification to reject the project and get full reimbursement of the expended public funds from the insurance company holding the performance bonds.

Now more than ever, Mayor Roberts must release the results of the State Attorney General's investigation into the 916 Garden Street Automated Garage.