August 30, 2019
PEF Health and Safety calls for action on crumbling Troy parking garage
BY KATE MOSTACCIO
Before the news broke on local television, PEF Health and Safety committee representatives and staff were on the ground at the Troy Atrium parking garage after receiving complaints of poor conditions from members parking there during their shifts.
A walkthrough of the garage, used by most of the 400 state Department of Labor (DOL) and Information Technology Services (OITS) employees who work at the Atrium, prompted the PEF Health and Safety Department and committee members to demand immediate mediation and repairs from the building’s landlord through the state Office of General Services (OGS).
OGS manages the lease of the garage from Bryce Realty for approximately 300 DOL workers. That lease is up in June 2020, some employees can expect to move out as early as November of this year. Approximately 100 OITS employees have access to the garage on their own, and since parking around the Atrium is primarily two-hour street parking, most choose to pay and use the garage.
In June, a PEF-represented employee at the Atrium reported that a member had driven over a large pothole in the garage and had blown a tire. Shortly after, another complaint came in reporting that cement had fallen on a member’s vehicle while the member was waiting to exit the garage at the end of the day.
“It’s not uncommon if you park in the garage in the morning that by the end of the day you’ll find dust, pebbles and pieces of cement on your car,” said Mike Blue, PEF Region 8 coordinator and Article 18 Health and Safety Co-Chair. “That garage has historically been an issue. A while ago there were issues with water drainage.”
PEF Member Joe Phelan, who has worked at the Atrium for more than four years with OITS, said the garage is particularly bad after it rains. “There’s one level where you need an umbrella to walk through it after it rains,” he said. The rain also brings down lime deposits, which he said are difficult to get off your car.
For as long as Phelan could, he held onto his old car, but he recently purchased a new one. “I don’t want to park in there now,” he said. “You get all that stuff all over your car. Even on a dry day, you get dust on the car. I’ve taken quarter-size pieces of concrete off my car.”
He gathered up a bag full of debris from his car and turned it over to PEF Statewide Health and Safety Committee Chairman Bob Mahoney, Phelan said. “There are cracks all over the garage,” he said. “Holes in the floor. Pieces of concrete, five or six inches in size. I’ve kicked them out of the way so people don’t run over them.”
A recent WNYT Channel 13 investigation revealed many of the same issues that PEF members have reported in the garage, brought to their attention by the public who use the garage during weekend events. The public is uncomfortable using the space just for the weekend — PEF members are using it all week and for many more hours a day.
According to a PEF member on the Health and Safety Committee, who works on site, quarterly inspections are done, which are then turned over to management, and management turns them over to the garage owners.
“Bryce makes a token effort to fix them,” he said.
Problems at the garage date back around seven years, the member said. “First it was poor lighting,” he said. “They would put temporary lights in. When they added the next level to the garage, they said they would make major repairs. They didn’t.”
He said leaks are ongoing, concrete is crumbling — and pigeons have taken up residence in an area of the garage. On a Monday morning, trash is regularly found strewn through the garage.
Phelan said he doesn’t feel safe using the garage, but there aren’t many viable options in the area. Other garages are more expensive and further away from his office.
He said people urinate in the garage and in the elevators, and he has witnessed violence around the entrance. “It’s not the best neighborhood,” he said. “And there aren’t any cameras.”
The crosswalk over the road between the garage and the Atrium is also a cause for concern for both Phelan and the Health and Safety Committee member. “The overhead walkway has extensive rust,” the member said. “Is it safe? We have felt it isn’t safe.”
Another maintenance issue local PEF representatives have brought to management to report to the owners has been the lack of visible lines on the garage pavement. For those who don’t know the garage, or who mistake it for public parking on a week day, there have been near-misses as they navigate the wrong way through the one-way driving lanes. “The lines haven’t been visible for several years,” the Health and Safety Committee member said.
When members raised the alarm about the garage, PEF immediately mobilized Health and Safety chairs and stewards, along with CSEA reps and DOL and OITS management, to conduct the walkthrough. As a result of the walkthrough, PEF documented the crumbling overhead, underfoot, and in-between, signs of deterioration.
“PEF requested that the many photographed areas be remediated and repaired immediately,” said Paige Engelhardt, PEF Occupational Safety & Health Specialist. “PEF, CSEA and management all pointed out many of the same areas where the concern for falling cement was high.”
“The garage conditions are so poor that people would have to look up and down at the same time to watch out for hazards”, Engelhardt said. “The result of the walkthrough was really concerning,” she said. “Our goal is to get the landlord to remediate first and foremost. Secondary to that is looking at alternatives, if it rose to that. We want our people to be safe.”
PEF requested an informational email be sent to all employees on site warning them of the “overhead and walking surface hazards that exist in the garage. This should include potholes, rough spots, rebar exposed, concrete falling, etc. The employees should also be informed of the proper channels to report incidents, injuries, and damage. This should include how to report anything from areas of concern where concrete could possibly fall, if a vehicle is found with remnants or is struck by something, or if there is a physical injury that occurs.”
PEF Health and Safety is waiting for word from OGS on what repairs have been completed at the garage site. In addition, CSEA has requested structural reports on the garage. Both are waiting for a response.
Blue has been in contact with the Troy Mayor’s Office. “I spoke with the city of Troy’s deputy mayor, Monica Kurzejeski, about the situation in the garage,” Blue said. “She advises that the city is aware of the issues in the garage and is making every effort to assist in any way they can.”
The city has requested a copy of a recent structural review from Bryce Realty and has promised to continue pushing for information and to keep him informed of any updates, Blue said.
Any member who has an issue to report should contact their field representative at PEF.
CLICK HERE to view all stories featured in the September 2019 Communicator!
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