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9/11 communications failures still unfixed in NY

The Port Authority is expanding its antiquated radio infrastructure, which is not compatible with the emergency communications setup of the NYPD and the FDNY

By Josh Margolin
The New York Post

NEW YORK — The communications failures that led to the deaths of hundreds of first responders on 9/11 still haven’t been fixed, despite tens of millions of dollars spent on elaborate radio systems in lower Manhattan, The Post has learned.

And officials at the Port Authority fear a terror attack at the rebuilt World Trade Center will lead to more needless deaths of cops, firefighters and those they would be trying to rescue.

“It’s going to be the same tragedy as last time,” a livid Paul Nunziato, president of the PA’s Police Benev olent Association, said. “They’re going to get people killed.”

The PA on Feb. 24 approved $130 million for the design and construction of a massive communications system at the 16-acre World Trade Center site, which the bi-state agency owns.

The PA is planning to hard-wire the new buildings at the site and build in transmitters, anten nas and broadcast equipment that would allow emergency workers to communicate even if all power fails and the buildings again come under attack.

The problem is that the PA is not following recommendations to install a whole new system, but is instead expanding its antiquated radio infrastructure — which is being discontinued by the manufacturer and is not compatible with the emergency communications setup of the NYPD and the FDNY, the agency confirmed.

Because of that, sources told The Post, NYPD brass refused to sign off on the PA’s plans and then broke off talks altogether before the agency’s board voted unanimously on the spending.

In the run-up to the board vote, a small chorus of top PA officials raised fears that the agency was repeating past mistakes by speeding into a communications package that would leave city firefighters and cops stranded and unable to hear instructions or evacuation orders from the agency - just as on Sept. 11, 2001, sources told The Post. But the people who objected were steamrolled by PA leaders hellbent on getting the approvals.

“It’s a train wreck,” said one PA official involved in the process. “There is clearly a problem here. I don’t know why there is such a rush, but there is.”

Police spokesman Paul Browne would say only, “The Port Authority and the NYPD are working closely together to build a fully compatible, inter-operable communications system.”

PA spokesman Steve Coleman insisted the new system is “flexible,” so it can be adapted in the future to merge with the system used by the Police and Fire departments.

“There is no need to delay,” Coleman said.

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