Volume 20, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 25 - September 1- 7, 2010
Port looking elsewhere for crossing guards
BY Aline Reynolds
Sam Schwartz Engineering is not ready to relinquish its post at two of the busiest intersections in the city.
In early July, the Port Authority released a request for proposals for pedestrian management at Church and Vesey, Church and Liberty, and Vesey and West Broadway streets near the World Trade Center site. Schwartz, a pedestrian management safety firm, was contracted for the job for the last 18 months at Church and Vesey, and Church and Liberty streets.
The Port awarded the contract to high-end securities firm AlliedBarton at its August 5 board meeting. The Port has since presented its decision as a done deal.
“Schwartz did a very good job getting this off the ground, and we appreciate that, but ultimately we believe AlliedBarton has a commitment, and we’re going to hold them to it to provide the same level of service,” said Steve Sigmund, chief of public and government affairs at the Port Authority.
Sigmund added that Allied’s offer was about 50 percent less than Schwartz’s annual price of $1.6 million.
“We could have lowered our bid, but decided to pay our people what we think is a fair price for doing this kind of work,” said Sam Schwartz, founder, president and CEO of Schwartz Engineering. Schwartz said he pays his pedestrian managers $20 to $25 per hour, compared to Barton’s pay rate of about $17 an hour, according to a job posting on AlliedBarton’s website.
After losing the contract to Allied Barton, Schwartz’s office immediately filed a letter of complaint to the Port, stating it’s more qualified for the job, and point out that they have successfully performed the duties since early 2009.
In the letter, Schwartz defends itself and its track record.
“Over the past 18 months, the company’s pedestrian managers have crossed 60 million people in the last year with only two incidents that involved its own pedestrian managers shoving walkers to safety. The firm was also chosen last month by Battery Park City Authority to supervise pedestrians at West Street, thanks to an L.M.D.C. grant,” the letter stated.
In an August 26 e-mail, the Port notified Schwartz that its contract would be extended through September 24, 2010. Schwartz’s office was told to keep its pedestrian managers on site at the three intersections until that date.
Sigmund didn’t confirm specifically that the contract was extended, but he said the Port is currently reviewing Schwartz’s complaint and assured there would be no disruptions to pedestrian management service at those intersections in the interim period.
“When you look at the facts, you’ll find that we are the best qualified bidder,” said Schwartz. “If you pay less, you get what you pay for.”
The contract requires the bidder to have “at least five years of continuous experience immediately prior to the date of submission of its bid in the management and operation of a business managing or directing pedestrians in metropolitan high traffic areas.”
All pedestrian managers, it continues, must possess “five or more years of law enforcement experience with at least two years of experience in traffic management in local, state, federal government and/or U.S. military.”
AlliedBarton said it couldn’t comment on the specifics of the contract while discussions with the Port are still taking place, but confirmed that it’s fully qualified for the job.
“If and when we do get the contract, all of our employees will be thoroughly trained on the latest techniques involved in pedestrian crossings and safety,” said Larry Rubin, spokesperson for the company.
Rubin added that the workers would be trained specifically for the busy intersections, and that the company may hire additional workers for the job.
AlliedBarton’s job posting said, “Individuals must be able to stand for 8 hours or more and work outdoors under all weather conditions. The pay rate for this position is $17.04 an hour.” “We’ll recruit the best possible people for the positions,” said Rubin.
Schwartz might have to lay off its workers if it is not re-hired for the job. He is “optimistic” that the Port will change its decision in the coming weeks however.