A confrontation on Sunday between the contractor hired to install the computer software at the 324-car automatic parking garage at 916 Garden St. and Hoboken Parking Authority Commissioner Donald Pellicano caused a temporary delay in testing the facility last week.
According to officals from Robotic Parking Inc., Pellicano, a long-time HPA commissioner who has criticized Robotic in the past, aggressively approached employees at the garage and started an argument Sunday afternoon.
Exactly what was said, or whether the argument was related to recent or past garage matters, was unclear. But the confrontation was confirmed Wednesday by Parking Authority Chairman Frank Turso.
Pellicano had no comment about the incident when contacted Wednesday, saying that since it had been discussed Monday in a closed session at the Parking Authority meeting, he cannot discuss it.
On Monday, Robotic was scheduled to begin final Performance Validation Testing at the automatic garage. The process, which is scheduled to last between five and seven days, will give Robotic the opportunity to prove to the Parking Authority and the project’s insurance company that it has fulfilled all of its contractual obligations, such as installing the computer system and mechanical devices that pick up cars and deliver them to empty spots.
According to Robotic, because of the confrontation, the scheduled test was canceled until the firm could meet with the full board.
“Unfortunately, [Sunday] afternoon, a rather ugly and contentious incident occurred, precipitated by a member of the Hoboken Parking Authority,” said Robotic Vice-President Peggy Guignon in a statement released Monday. “This company has spent over three years fighting the Hoboken hostility, and although we were prepared to complete the Performance Validation Testing phase of our contract, we have determined not to move forward with the testing process until we have the chance to meet with the full board of commissioners.”
Robotic met with the HPA Monday, and the incident was discussed in a closed session.
Tuesday, Robotic said that despite Sunday’s incident, the firm is ready to go forward with its testing. “[Robotic Parking] is continuing its work on the project and moving forward well,” said Guignon.
Chairman Turso said the delay should not significantly postpone the garage’s opening, which is tentatively scheduled for some time in June.
Robotic and the project’s insurance company were on hand Friday at 10 a.m. to begin performance validation testing. The test performed Friday was a storage and retrieval test.
Twenty-one cars were driven in into the parking bays. They were successfully lifted automatically into assigned spaces on one of the building’s seven levels. The cars were then retrieved from those floors and returned safely to Garden Street
. All of the cars were stored and retrieved well below the maximum amount of time allowed in the contractor’s contract, signifying a successful test.
Chairman Turso, who in the past had not spoken publicly on garage matters, came to Wednesday’s City Council meeting to speak out.
“I was here tonight to inform the council of what occurred,” Turso said after the meeting, “that there was possible misconduct by a commissioner and that [the council] should investigate.”
During a closed session of the City Council, Turso presented the HPA’s position about what happened Sunday.
The City Council is the only governmental body that has the ability to sanction, suspend or remove a member of the Parking Authority. As of Friday, the results of any investigation were still not known.
An upset mayor
Sunday’s incident didn’t go unnoticed by Mayor David Roberts.
“I’m losing my patience with that agency,” said the mayor Tuesday from his office, referring to the HPA. “Now that my public education initiative is moving along smoothly, I’m going to place parking on the top of my agenda.”
The mayor added that the continuous nature of the HPA is not acceptable. “It’s the responsibility of these public officals to provide parking,” he said. “But all they seem to do is assign blame and engage in discourse and rancor with contractors. That is something that has to change. The [HPA] needs more that just a little tinkering. It’s in need of an overhaul.”
The mayor did not elaborate on what he is planning, but did say that a major change will be announced shortly. Parking authorities are independent bodies in municipalities created by a charter from the city.