The Rowan Boulevard parking garage is owned and managed by Nexus, which also owns several of the residential buildings on the boulevard, as well as the Mick Drive garage. VanDewater examines the many issues she and others have experienced with the RoBo parking facility. - File Photo / Benjamin Stephens

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece mentions topics that may be upsetting for some readers.

Over the past month or so, it’s been once again brought to the forefront of my attention just how much of a hazard the Nexus-owned parking garage situated on Rowan Boulevard (RoBo) poses. This garage, if you don’t already know, provides parking for much of the campus population and visitors; residents of Rowan Boulevard Apartments, Holly Pointe and Nexus properties on RoBo park here, as well as Marriott and Rowan guests and customers of the various businesses along the boulevard.

During my time at Rowan (I’m a senior now), I can recall two times the RoBo garage has been at the center of two major stories The Whit covered: a peeping Tom arrest in November 2019 and an incident that placed a Rowan student in critical condition in December 2019.

Like much of the Rowan community at the time, the fact that these two instances happened so close in time to each other and in the same place was shell-shocking for me, to say the least. However, I can say I felt somewhat removed from both, as I had rarely set foot in that parking garage; having experiences there that were few and far-between made it feel like a distant, just-a-concept place, like Italy or the moon.

Now, reality has truly sunk in, as I am one of the hundreds of people who park in the six-tiered lot every day. It’s not just a place I know in my mind exists, it’s a place I frequent. And because of my new proximity, I see the issues with the garage that go beyond the one-off incidents that make the news.

Walking through the garage is a nerve-wracking experience in and of itself, as the distance between the entrance and where you left your car leaves you exposed to careless drivers who use the straightaways as their playground, revving their engines and barreling at upward of 30 mph through a posted 5 mph zone. It’s a place where you don’t know if someone will come screeching around the corner, not paying attention for pedestrians or even cars backing out of a space.

The RoBo garage is a place where people regularly return to their car to find that someone’s dented their bumper since they last were there, and there’s no sign of who did it or when. The only reported response from garage employees is to file a police report. One of my friends asked an employee if there were cameras where her car was to see if they could determine any information, and they wouldn’t deign to answer yes or no.

Upon checking Nexus’ Parking FAQ page for the RoBo garage, it’s clear that my friend was misled in some way, as it says that an employee should take pictures of the damage and ask you to file an incident report, and “a member of the Nexus Claims Department will complete an investigation and email you with questions or findings within 5 business days.”

The site also claims that there is “on-site personnel 24 hours a day and 24-hour CCTV recording to safeguard you and your vehicle,” as well as security, which begs the question of why she couldn’t get answer about cameras in the garage. Additionally, it leaves me wondering why I’ve never seen any type of security in the garage, other than the occasional Glassboro police car parked on the first floor.

Due to this, I’ve been parking on the higher floors all year, just to stay away from reckless drivers. This, however, has led to my discovery of the next big problems with the garage.

Since the end of February, I’ve rescued four birds from dying in the stairwell on the Bulldog Way side of the parking garage. Oftentimes, I take the stairs to my car because the elevator is sketchy, slow and sometimes unexpectedly out of order — another problem itself, but I digress — and I have come across birds flying around in the stairwell in distress, flinging themselves into the windows that are the only source of sunlight. Being the animal lover I am, I can’t bear to watch them potentially hurt themselves, so I sometimes spend 10 minutes chasing them up and down the stairs until I can corner, catch and release them.

It’s especially motivating for me to get a hold of the birds because I’ve seen two dead birds in the stairwell since the spring semester began. While I can’t be sure how exactly the birds got stuck in the stairwell to begin with, it likely has something to do with the fact that the garage is open air in the lot part and windowed in the staircase. They most likely go in the garage for shelter, then try to leave through the stairwell because they see sunlight, not realizing it’s closed off.

This brings me to yet another issue the RoBo garage presents. The two dead birds I’ve seen in the stairwell were not just a one-time occurrence, as they sat undisturbed in the stairwell for weeks on end. As of the last time I walked up the stairs, one of them is still curled up in what I can only assume is its dying position, as it has been for probably six weeks now.

And these aren’t the only things I’ve seen needing to be cleaned up in the parking garage. I’ve seen used paper plates on the landing of the stairs sit there for a week. I’ve seen empty bottles and cans of alcohol left on the stairs and in the elevator for several days. Fast food bags and cups litter the parking area, even on the higher levels where fewer people park. People lose things in the stairwell that aren’t cleaned up for weeks, like masks and even false eyelashes. The cleanliness of the garage at any point in time is questionable at best, regardless of trash and debris being present.

It’s clear that the Rowan Boulevard parking garage needs some semblance of rules, which Rowan’s parking rules and guidelines outline as Nexus’ prerogative, since it is owned and operated by the company. However, searching Nexus’ parking website turns up no actual rules list, and there seems to be limited information about rules available in the garage itself, save for some signage that rejects responsibility for damage and theft and says cars in reserved parking spots or fire lanes “will be tagged and towed at vehicle owner expense,” as well as the often-ignored “5 mph” signs.

If there are in fact other rules and regulations set forth by Nexus, they clearly aren’t enforced. Except for the occasional booted car in the lot, I’ve barely witnessed any maintenance of the garage, or adherence to or upholding of rules and laws.

Since the RoBo parking garage is largely and possibly even solely used by the Rowan community, I believe that Rowan administration should hold Nexus more accountable for what happens in the garage. While I acknowledge that Rowan has relinquished responsibility for creating and enforcing regulation of the Nexus-owned garage, it doesn’t mean that they can’t require or suggest to Nexus certain rules and maintenance it should put in place to make it safer and more pleasant for Rowan students and community members.

For example, Gourmet Dining, which serves all the food at Rowan’s on-campus eateries, has a contract with the university. This likely outlines what Rowan expects Gourmet Dining to do as the major food provider for students, which the company is contractually obligated to follow. Why shouldn’t the university be able to do the same with Nexus to make a better parking experience for the community, since it similarly serves us?

While I can only offer my personal opinion about how to fix these issues, I hope it helps Rowan administration and Nexus to take the first step toward making the RoBo garage safer for everyone. For starters, maintain stricter enforcement of posted speed limits; people shouldn’t be going 30 mph in an enclosed space. More regular and thorough cleaning would help keep the facilities in good condition. A final thought — for the benefit of the birds — is to tint or darken the windows in the stairwell, or even use non-obtrusive films on the windows, so birds don’t mistake them for an easy exit.

I’m sure there are other changes that can be made to improve the parking garage, these are just a few off the top of my head. By writing this article, I hope that I make Rowan officials aware of what is something that many students experience but rarely mention, as if it’s some sort of taboo. The Nexus garage on Rowan Boulevard, quite frankly, is poorly maintained and dangerous, which is something that could be remedied by enforcement of rules and proper care of the facilities. This article serves as a raising of the flag to administration that these are problems that exist, which ideally should be followed by action to improve these conditions.

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