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NYC Suspends Massive 911 System Overhaul to Probe Lengthy Delays, $1 Billion Over Budget

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In an exclusive for the New York Daily News, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González reports New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has suspended a major overhaul of the city’s 911 emergency system to probe the project’s lengthy delay and a cost overrun now topping $1 billion. A signature initiative of the Michael Bloomberg era, González calls the move “a stunning admission by the de Blasio administration that the 911 overhaul is more troubled than officials have been willing to admit.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan, you had a front-page story in the New York Daily News this week.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, on Monday, I reported exclusively that the de Blasio administration has ordered a complete halt to all spending and further work on a huge project that the city has been engaged in now for a decade—it started under the Bloomberg administration—the modernization of the emergency communications 911 system for police, fire and ambulances. And this actually goes back to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, when over 300 firefighters lost their lives, and dozens of police, because of failures in the communications system, the radios that the fire—the portable radios that the firefighters had failed on that day, and they didn’t hear the orders in the buildings to evacuate the buildings because they were about to collapse.

So, as a result of that and overloads of the 911 system, the city began a massive campaign to basically modernize its 911 system. And it was supposed to cost about a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money. But it’s now over $2 billion, and it’s 10 years later, and the system is still not completed. And major companies have made enormous amounts of money—Verizon, Hewlett-Packard, Northrop Grumman—all these companies that have been involved in the project. And it still has not been finished, with many firefighters and policemen claiming that response times are worse now and their ability to respond to emergencies has become more difficult as a result of this new system.

So, what Mayor de Blasio did over the weekend, he said, “That’s it. We’re stopping this whole thing. We’re going to do an immediate review for the next 60 days.” He asked for the Department of Investigations to do a probe into possible corruption in the operation. And he asked for a complete audit by the new comptroller, Scott Stringer. So it’s an enormous reversal of a major policy—a signature project of the Bloomberg administration, to find out how such a colossal project could have gone wrong.

And the thing is, as I’ve been reporting now for years, this is not just happening in New York City. Across the country, computer and technology companies are gouging local and state governments with these huge technology projects that they promise are going to do—revolutionize government, but end up bilking the taxpayers. So it’s a nationwide problem, but in New York City, obviously, because the 911 system of New York City is so critical, not only to millions of New Yorkers, but it’s known around the world, it’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll certainly continue to cover your exposés, Juan.

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