The one-of-a-kind garage is owned by the City of Hoboken, but was operated by Robotic Parking, which supplies the software to operate a series of elevators, pullies and pallets that move cars into a vertical grid of parking spaces.
The city and Robotic have had difficulty working together for some time, but the city still needed Robotic's software to continue to operate the garage.
Both sides reached an impasse last month when they could not reach an agreement on an increase in operational fees. A tentative licensing agreement for the city to use Robotic's software was reached on Wednesday in Federal Court in Newark. The agreement should keep the garage open and operating, say city officials.
Mayor David Roberts said, "The settlement will result in Hoboken operating the facility utilizing Robotic's state-of-the-art software in a manner that will continue to serve the bests interests of the community and the customers."
Robotic Parking and the city have a long history together. When the 916 Garden St. garage opened in Oct. 2002, it was years late and already millions of dollars over budget. Both sides blamed each other for problems during construction and development, which led to a series of attacks, both personal and professional, between city and Robotic officials.
Once the garage did open, city officials said that Robotic Parking was to blame for incidents of damage to cars in the garage. Robotic Parking responding that the city overstated the problems with the garage, and that they are proud of the performance record.
At its July 12 meeting, the Hoboken City Council passed a resolution that terminated, effective Aug.1, the month-to-month operational, maintenance and repair agreement with Robotic.
The HPU's current contract with Robotic Parking is $23,250. Robotic officials made a demand to increase the fee to $27,900 per month. The city makes money by collecting the parking fees from users of the garage.
On July 19, Robotic issued a letter to the patrons of the garage that charged that the Hoboken Parking Utility still owes Robotic money and that Parking Utility officials "repeatedly mounted unwarranted vulgar and threatening harassments" towards their staff. The letter said that Robotic would no longer be able "to further subsidize the City of Hoboken Parking Utility."
On Tuesday, July 25, Parking Utility head John Corea, flanked by several Hoboken police officers, escorted a Robotic Parking employee out of garage in an attempt to take over operations.
That started a legal battle before Federal Court Judge Stanley Chesler in Newark. Robotic sought injunctive relief and asked that the garage be shut down. They argued that the city was illegally using and possibly copying the software used to operate the garage. Robotic said they had put $10 million of research into developing the software.
The city maintained that the city was only interested in operating the garage and has no intention of stealing Robotic Parking's intellectual property.
Chester, in stern language, said that it was in the interest of the city and Robotic Parking to put aside their personal animosity.
A deal reached
On Wednesday, the city and Robotic issued a joint press release that announced that a settlement has been reached. Under the three-year agreement, the city will pay Robotic a monthly fee of $5,500 to utilize its software. Meanwhile, an Israel-based firm called Unitronics will be retained to work in tandem with the Parking Utility to operate and maintain the garage. The city will pay Unitronics the same amount as Robotic's former contract, $23,250 a month.
Despite the vitriol of previous statements, both sides now appear willing to make this relationship work. "This agreement will mean that the citizens of Hoboken and garage customers will continue to have access to the most advanced garage parking system in the Country," Roberts said.
Dennis Clarke, General Manager of Robotic Parking, said, "We are proud to turn this garage over to the city to operate and maintain. The 916 Garden St. Garage remains the safest public parking structure in the world, has been the best maintained and most ingeniously crafted parking facility in the country. It is remains the most efficient use of parking space per square foot anywhere."
Clarke added that Robotic will continue to provide online tech support "so the future for all of the patrons is bright indeed."
Clarke added, "We trust our technology in the hands of the city and know that they will keep the nearly flawless record of the facility going."
Judge Chesler has dismissed without prejudice the Robotic's injunction, meaning that Robotic can still seek legal relief for alleged infringement of its copyrighted material, if they so choose.