Moving troubles: Medical school staff concerned over parking options downtown
Frustration with lack of answers precludes excitement for some staff
Kara Rickicki feels as though she’s been kept in the dark about information on her future job site, the downtown medical campus.
UB is scheduled to open the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences this winter, but UB has not finalized a plan for transporting employees to the new medical campus Members of the United University Profession (UUP) are working alongside “multiple UB units” to find a solution for students and faculty who will be working and studying at the new campus, according to UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada.
“We know absolutely nothing,” Rickicki, a graduate programs coordinator for the department of physiology and biophysics, said. “We are scheduled to move Nov. 20. That’s two months away and we have absolutely no idea where we’re going to park because I’ve looked into it and it’s very limited–or how we’re supposed to afford to park.”
Rickicki said she understands the excitement about the school’s big move, like many of the school’s faculty and staff. She knows what it means for Buffalo and the rejuvenation of the city, but she feels as though administrators have neglected the finer details of such a big move.
Other staff members shared her concerns, but many did not feel comfortable speaking on the record.
Eleftherios Mermigas, an executive board member of UUP, said the move leaves many staff members in limbo.
The last proposal encourages employees to park on South Campus and take UB buses or shuttles downtown. Then administration realized it would be too expensive to hire the necessary drivers, Mermigas said.
Other ideas floated include riding the metro from South Campus to downtown. Rickicki said the cost of a NAFTA monthly pass would be $75, only saving her $15 a month.
There is also parking downtown, which is limited and expensive, Mermigas said. Parking garages near the medical corridor cost between $99 and $150 per month, which would conflict with the UUP contract, Mermigas said.
“My cable bill is $90. Right now, unfortunately, I have student loans and all sorts of stuff, I’m in the beginning of my career,” Rickicki said. “Taking on another weight like that, it’s just not feasible for me, and I know that I’m speaking for lots of other people, it’s just not possible financially for many of us.”
UUP members already pay roughly nine dollars annually to park on South Campus, according to Mermigas.
“If you have a car, you want to use it the way you want to use it, drive it from your house to work,” Mermigas said. “You pay for cars, you pay for insurance. So for me, it would make no sense for me to have a car if I’m taking a bus all the way downtown and back every day.”
The move impacts personal lives also. Most staff members moving to the downtown campus were hired to work on South Campus. Rickicki said she will have to double her commuting time from Tonawanda.
“At the end of the day, I go to the gym, and if I’m downtown, that’s not really gonna be an option anymore. I go home or run errands on my lunch hour. I can’t do that downtown,” Rickicki said. “I know it sounds simple and kind of stupid, but it’s our day to day life. It’s changing a lot.”
Martin Pugliese, a senior staff assistant in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, said there is some anxiety over space issues, mainly for research departments. The new medical campus is smaller than its South Campus counterpart, by 272,000 square feet, and will be home to UB’s largest medical class yet.
Pugliese said he is excited about the move downtown, but knows the lack of information, especially regarding parking, is a source of frustration for his co-workers. He’s heard rumors of a parking garage that UB faculty members would have access to, but there is no official plan.
“Residents of the city are already bracing themselves for the influx and there are some neighborhoods who are getting parking permits for their own blocks, so I think it’s going to get tighter still,” Pugliese said. “I don’t know what the solution is other than to get this ramp completed and to make sure there’s enough spaces. I think even if there is a ramp, there probably won’t be enough space.”
There are logistical questions too that remain unanswered, Rickicki said. Her department will still need to meet on South Campus several times a month, but their building is set to be repurposed. They have figured out some things as a department, like where will they print papers and exams to be distributed on South Campus.
“We’re flying in the dark here. We don’t have a future plan, and for someone who’s personally a planner, that’s a problem,” Rickicki said. “And it’s not my department, it’s not my bosses. This goes way over their heads.”
Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org