Project Starts With Conflict

Mess of a Motorgate Improvement Project

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
Mess of a Motorgate Improvement Project
Photo credit: Frank Farance

Repairing and enhancing a leaky Motorgate, the oddly named, crumbling parking garage serving Roosevelt Island, should be, no sweat, a welcome project. Who doesn't want a better, safer place to park their cars? But here, this ordinary project somehow manages to generate as much conflict as applause.

Motorgate Improvements Begin

It was simple enough. 

RIOC announced on June 2nd, "Phase I of the Motorgate Improvement Project will be starting this week." And there was a link to a bullet list for work lined up for it. 

Good enough. 

Until Island resident and vigilant activist Frank Farance parked in the garage a week later with enough time to check things out. An engineer by trade and a safety expert, Farance found numerous causes for alarm.

Most notable was an elaborate installation of speed bumps. Meant to increase safety by reducing speeds, Farance believes, using federal guidelines, that they're are too close together, causing congestion. More alarmingly, they reduce the overhead clearance for vehicles put at increased risk of hitting conduits and other low hanging hardware.

Details were relayed to RIOC accompanied by graphic, visual examples.

Farance is a frequent RIOC critic who, last year, discovered that the State agency was supplying contaminated water to playground water fountains, forcing a shutdown and complete overhaul of the system and, more recently, called out the looming hazards of overcrowding at the Cherry Blossom Festival well in advance.

For the first, he was thanked by RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal. For the second, he was ignored and the resulting chaos earned Roosevelt Island negative, national press coverage, not to mention the outspoken wrath of frustrated festival goers.

Generally, you're wise to listen when Farance raises an alarm, however caustic he may be. It's not that he's always right or the most gentle of critics, but he finds what everyone else misses often enough that his observations warrant a long look.

What's unwise is to ignore or snub him.

Guess which RIOC did...

No, it was both.

Farance Takes a Longer Look

Three days later, Farance went back and found more problems.

Fire safety exits were blocked and littered with tripping hazards throughout the construction area, as shown the photo above. Signage was enough of a mess that it risked causing panic in an emergency.

Traffic was being redirected into two lanes that, Farance believes, aren't wide enough for safe passage.

In an email, Farance described his concerns in detail illustrated with photos

Realistically, RIOC had two options. 

1) Respond to Farance with an explanation of why his concerns were unnecessary, or

2) Thank him for his contribution and correct any deficiencies that were warranted.

Guess which RIOC did...

You've probably already guessed that they did neither.

Instead, RIOC Vice President Shelton Haynes, a primary recipient of Farance's emails, sent the following the next day, after hours:

Good afternoon,

As RIOC enters the final stages of contract negotiation with the contractor who will be doing the necessary repair work on the Motorgate structure, I wanted to update the community on a few items.

We expect work to begin in about a week or so. Please note that all work will be done in strict adherence of New York City Building Code regulations. At least two fire exits will remain accessible near the work area at all times during construction. Speed bumps have been installed at various locations in the garage to control speed throughout the parking facility once construction begins. Required clearances between the top of the speed bump and the ceiling structure have been maintained. These temporary speed bumps have been installed for the safety of Motorgate customers, parking garage staff, construction crews and RIOC/PSD personnel during construction. Two-way traffic in these areas is necessary to allow Motorgate to remain open while the necessary repair work takes place. This traffic pattern has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by RIOC, its subcontractors and consultants.

All signage that is contrary to the new traffic flow is already in the process of being blocked. New signage is in the process of being installed. Please note that traffic flow through Motorgate will continue to be monitored throughout construction. All safety measures and signage will be adjusted accordingly as conditions and realities dictate. In the meantime, we encourage all customers to go slow and be careful while they drive through the garage.

Haynes sent this message to local media, including The Daily, RIOC senior staff and elected officials.

He did not, however, include Farance in his email. Farance found out about it when The Daily contacted him for a response.

Farance Reacts to Haynes's Snub

"Nope, they have already started ... everyone knows that from the RIOC Advisories, signage at Motorgate, construction crews on site, and concrete work already started.  I saw a dozen or so workers yesterday ... what are they doing if they haven't started?" Farance wrote, responding to Haynes's claim that work would "begin in a week or so.."

"Shelton is lying to us again, and about safety issues, too," Farance posted on the Roosevelt Islander blog. 

"The community should understand: this is why we have carcinogens in children's water fountains, this is why RIOC killed the RI Youth Program on the Island... and this why we have a broken response to the Cherry Blossom Festival..."

Mess of a Motorgate Improvement Project
Photo credit: Frank Farance

"Also, RIOC and the contractor have not properly analyzed this because if they had, they'd be talking about clearance heights (which could be independently be verified), they'd be talking about jounce/rebound (which could be independently verified). FYI, jounce (the distance that the suspension extends) can be 4-6 inches, e.g., 6 ft 10 in plus 4-6 inches is 7 ft 4 inches, which is higher than the clearance not only of a beam, but the conduit, too (which exists even without the beam). The conduit has already buckled."

Farance posted this information on the Roosevelt Islander yesterday afternoon. 

RIOC has, so far, not responded.

It's possible that the worst hazard exposed here is that RIOC is so unresponsive to one of the Island's most proactive residents that he's forced to communicate via the internet and third parties.

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