I parked in Battery Garage in lower Manhattan last Wednesday. Its two blocks from Ground Zero, a block from the Hudson River and around the corner from Wall Street. The place is a complex of two buildings, ramps, bridges, and a lot of parking. It seemed that all the parking was above ground so I mentioned to Laz Manager, Salik Syed, that he must have escaped a lot of water damage due to Sandy.
He laughed. “Well, our basement is where all the mechanicals are for elevators, heating and AC, the phone system and the like. It was a real mess. See the signs that say “cash only?” That is because we have no phones and no internet. We can’t clear credit cards.” Their lane equipment was fine, water never reached above curb level.
He stepped away to take a call on one of the four cell phones he carries. “At least you have cell phones,” I said. A man standing in line to pay his parking heard my comment and piped up “Hell, cell phones don’t work either.” Salik mentioned that’s why he had four. Some work some times, some at other times, some he has to walk down the street to get a signal. I noted that at least he had power.
“We were fortunate,” he said. We got power after about a week. I think its because we sit on top of the Holland Tunnel and they wanted to get the tunnel working so our part of the grid got priority. They say the phones won’t be back for a while. It seems that water destroyed a lot of the copper wiring under the streets. They are replacing it all with fiber, but that will take a while.”
Sure, cell phones work as radios, but they have to get to land lines at some point. And the cell towers need electricity.
I thought back on my visit to the “cloud” earlier in the week. If these garages were running on a cloud, they would be home free. Then it occurred to me, if there is no internet, how are they going to connect to their servers perhaps half a country away. Mother nature gives with one hand and takes away with another.
Salik’s PARCS system was working fine, Gates were going up and down, access cards were working, POF’s were taking money (Cash only) and on the surface everything seemed fairly normal. He was still concerned about invoicing his contract parkers — they had no way to run credit cards through the system and bill tens of thousands of dollars for monthlies. Over 90% of his customers had put their cards on file. They are working with the manufacturer to hook up a hot spot to run temporarily until the ‘net is back up.
They were able to get a veriphone and a hot spot running so they could take credit cards manually for payment for daily parkers. Solutions are there, but you need to be creative. This manager seems to be in control.