Updated: December 19, 2019 11:46 AM
Created: December 18, 2019 07:34 PM
TROY - A longtime state employee is speaking out after a massive concrete beam came crashing to the ground at the Uncle Sam Parking Garage on Saturday morning. The worker asked NewsChannel 13 conceal their identity for fear of punishment.
"We're really afraid of the structure in the garage. It's completely unsafe. It's just a matter of time before something happens and someone gets hurt or killed. And now with the beam coming down, how could they possibly tell us that it's safe."
Reporter Jill Konopka asked the state worker, "What do you think the future of the garage should be?" The state employee responded, "I think it should be torn down, people shouldn't be allowed to park there. Someone is going to get hurt or killed."
As city officials and engineers raced to the scene over the weekend, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden told 13 Investigates it was an isolated incident Saturday.
13 Investigates asked Mayor Madden, "You think the garage is safe for people to park there?"
"Yep, I do," said the mayor.
Last month, the city issued the owner an appearance ticket for failing to provide the state required engineering assessment due back in the fall. Now, Troy city leaders say it is reviewing a draft copy they recently received.
"Our engineer is reviewing their report now for completeness and to see if it raises any questions for us.
Reporter Jill Konopka asked Mayor Madden over the weekend, "Someone could've died here, no?"
"Well, if they were in the wrong spot at the wrong time, sure. That's a heavy beam," he said.
John Salka is the spokesman for Troy Mayor Patrick Madden. He issued this statement to 13 Investigates:
"A final signed engineering assessment from the owner of the Uncle Sam Parking Garage has not been provided to the city. When final documents are approved and submitted, the report will be publicly available. The city will work to ensure the property owner addresses any items identified for compliance with NYS Building Code. The property was previously ticketed for non-compliance with state inspection requirements. Our primary concern is public safety, and we continue to pursue code enforcement efforts with the property owner."
Reporter Jill Konopka also reached out to the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District. Executive Director Katie Hammon, released the following statement to 13 Investigates:
"The City of Troy is working with the property owner to address the issue since this is a privately owned garage and public safety is the main concern. With the holiday season in full swing, there are many visitors downtown. Those that are looking for alternative parking locations to explore the city are encouraged to utilize City of Troy garages, parking lots and street parking with free parking available on nights and weekends. “
13 Investigates has been documenting structural concerns here since June, when a tipster shared a red cone covering a gaping hole in one of the floors of the garage. 13 Investigates obtained a copy of a new memo issued by the company that owns the Uncle Sam Garage. That is The Bryce Properties/David Bryce. Here is a copy of that memo:
As some of you may have heard, there was a structural issue at the Uncle Sam Parking Garage on Saturday morning. A secondary beam, that is not essential to the structure's integrity, fell on the first level of the garage. It was in a spot that no cars are able to park and no one was in the vicinity during the incident.
This past month we made a substantial investment to have a very reputable firm perform a thorough inspection of the structure. They identified a couple areas that required immediate attention. Those areas were closed off and repaired immediately after they were identified. During their inspection, the area affected on Saturday showed no signs for immediate concern.
They were able to send an engineer to the garage within two hours of the failure and he and our local engineer concluded that it was an isolated incident and is not an indication that any other area will see a similar failure.
We have completed drawings with both engineers and have sent them to the team who will start the repairs on Monday, December 16. Until that time, the western side of the second deck will remained closed to prevent vehicles from driving over the area where the beam fell. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. We would also appreciate it if you could forward this message along to any members of your organization affected by this situation.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments
Thank you for your understanding
Vice President Project Management
Troy's City Council President Carmella Mantello stated, "We saw yesterday in NYC a façade fell on a woman. So my request to the mayor, when was the last time city code and fire department inspected the garage?"
Mantello is hoping for an update at Thursday night's Finance Committee meeting.
"What were the results of inspection and moving forward and more importantly how can we work with Mr. Bryce and ensure the safety," Mantello added.
The anonymous state worker reiterates concern for the safety of state workers and even the public, "I'm afraid to say things, but I don't want any of my friends to be hurt or killed and that might happen."
13 Investigates also reached out the Public Employees Federation.
NYS Public Employees Federation issued this statement to NewsChannel 13:
"A collapsed support beam in the Troy Atrium parking garage on Saturday, Dec. 14 reaffirmed the concerns of New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) staff and union leaders that the conditions of the garage are a danger to state workers and the public who utilize the garage on a regular basis."
"PEF is fighting hard to protect workers on the job," said PEF President Wayne Spence. "Without a union, these workers would not have a choice or a safe place to park. There is a history of problems at this garage. PEF leaders and staff did a walkthrough over the summer and alerted state agencies on the hazards - including the same area where this beam fell. We received no response after that."
When reports reached PEF staff on Saturday, the Health and Safety Department, Field Service/Organizing, and local union leaders moved quickly to protect the Department of Labor (DOL) and Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) members in Troy.
"We acted on reports of the beam collapse immediately over the weekend," Region 8 Coordinator and Chair of the PEF Health and Safety Committee, Michael Blue, said. "We asked DOL and ITS to provide alternate parking arrangements to employees before Monday. DOL did send something out to staff, but there were problems with limited parking in the area. ITS staff make their own arrangements for parking, so the agency did not get involved."
PEF has asked for copies of new reports from the structural engineers, but as of Tuesday morning had not seen them.
"The city of Troy posted a press release on their website stating that the structure was sound," said Blue. "But, without seeing those reports, we can't verify that. At the very least, falling debris is a serious problem even if the structure is sound.
"We've recommended the state provide parking to employees in other state lots or at area Park and Rides and shuttle staff to work," Blue continued. "We have so far had no response to this recommendation."
PEF will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for its members.
"No one should have to be at risk parking to go to their job," Spence said. "Is it too much to ask that they have a safe place to park without debris falling on them? Or worse, a beam falling on them?"
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