City's No-Fly Wi-Fi

NY Post - November 07, 2011


The city just cannot get this right.

After five years and more than $500 million spent, the Bloomberg administration has bought itself yet another complex high-tech system that simply doesn't live up to the hype.

Conceived as a secure wireless network for city agencies, including cops, firefighters and building inspectors, the New York City Wireless Network -- dubbed NYCWiN -- was pitched as a futuristic system like the high-tech gadgets from the TV show "24."

Under the plans, crews racing to an emergency would have at their fingertips a treasure trove of data ranging from live video feeds to the timing of Midtown traffic lights.

While city officials insist the $535 million system that went operational in 2009 is a success, critics are quick to point out that it is falling far short of expectations.

Among the things the network can't do are:

* Transmit blueprints and building plans to firefighters and firetrucks.

* Send mug shots to police in their cars or as they walk the beat.

* Function inside most Big Apple buildings.

NYCWiN is "another computer-related sinkhole where hundreds of millions of dollars of scarce taxpayer resources are being wasted," said Al Hagan, president of the fire officers union.

"We've done a lot of nice things with NYCWiN, but we were told about some very simple uses for this in the public-safety sphere, like downloading pictures of suspects and downloading building plans, which still have not happened," Council Public Safety Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens) said.

Officials insist they have put NYCWiN to use in many ways, like doing water-meter readings and issuing environmental fines.

"The network was delivered on time and on budget, as we expect that it will be an essential part of the city's secure network infrastructure for many years to come," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway boasted to City Council members last week.

During a recent tour of the NYCWiN command center, Steven Harte of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications told The Post: "We've delivered everything that everyone said they wanted. The overarching story is success."