NYC slams brakes on problem-plagued 911 overhaul

The project is $1 billion over budget and years behind schedule; officials ordered a 60-day suspension to find out why

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed the brakes on the city’s problem-plagued overhaul of its Emergency Communications Transformation Program.

The NY Daily News reported that First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris ordered an immediate 60-day suspension starting Monday on all work and expenditures on the 911 upgrade. He also asked the city to conduct an independent review of what transpired over the recent years.

The city has found “additional significant and longstanding technical design, systems integration, and project management risks and issues that necessitate immediate corrective action,” Shorris said in a letter to the city.

Launched in the summer of 2005 at a projected cost of $1.3 billion, the 911 overhaul was expected to be finished by 2008.

“This project could be out of control” for both costs and delays, Shorris told NY Daily News reporters.

The aim of the project was to centralize outdated call-and-dispatch operations for police, fire and emergency medical services into a single, state-of-the-art computerized operation, complete with a newly constructed backup call center in the Bronx, according to the report.

In 2009, the project’s costs went up to more than $2 billion and was repeatedly dogged for faulty performance.

Last week, Shorris found that 22 telecom sites that were supposed to be established over the city as hubs for upgraded 911 radio communicators were not ready to support the new equipment, according to the report. It was previously thought they were.

“Those rooms needed a ton of work and could delay completion of the project by another 2 to 2 1/2 years,” Shorris told reporters. “That’s when City Hall officials realized the entire project might end up taking 14 to 15 years to finish and potentially end up with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs.”

In March, the former head of the NYPD’s 911 center, Assistant Chief Charles Dowd, was suddenly transferred to the Transit Division after foul ups in the 911 system. Dowd was later placed on modified assignment and has since filed for retirement, according to the report.

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