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City’s Delayed Response Time Threatens to Snag 911 Overhaul

The city's main 911 call center in downtown Brooklyn.
The city’s main 911 call center in downtown Brooklyn. Photo: NYPD

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More than two years after City Hall announced a 911 overhaul, officials have yet to pick a firm for the job — threatening to delay the upgrade to 2024, THE CITY has learned.

The NextGeneration project, aimed at bringing the city’s emergency response system into the digital age, was set for a 2022 debut.

But an internal tech department document obtained by THE CITY indicates the system won’t be “ready for production” until June 12, 2024.

“There are many open questions about the vendor and scope and cost,” a city official closely involved with the effort said.

NextGeneration would take the city’s emergency call system from analog technology to an internet protocol structure able to handle texts, photos and videos, as well as phone calls.

An interim system to allow 911 to accept texts was supposed to debut in early 2018. But as THE CITY previously reported, the project has been snagged by technical snafus, as well as disputes between the NYPD and the city’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT).

After THE CITY’s initial story, Mayor Bill de Blasio conceded the interim texting setup “should have been done already,” and the City Council moved up to Oct. 28 a hearing into the larger system overhaul.

A City Hall spokesperson maintains NextGeneration is moving along.

“The NextGeneration 911 system will make it easier for our city’s first responders to protect New Yorkers, and rapid, smart development is of paramount importance to New York City’s safety,” said the spokesperson, Will Baskin-Gerwitz.

Huge Cost Difference in Bids

DoITT is leaning toward tapping VESTA Solutions, part of Motorola, to handle the system overhaul, according to the city official and an engineer who helped put together VESTA’s bid.

A “budget scope meeting” was recently held with the Chicago-based firm at DoITT headquarters in downtown Brooklyn, the official said.

VESTA also has begun looking to hire engineers willing to work in New York City, according to the engineer.

The project still has two major bidders vying to handle the primary conversion: VESTA Solutions, and Atos, a French technology firm, records obtained by THE CITY show.

But the bids were vastly different: Atos said the job would cost around $229 million, while VESTA said the new 911 system could be delivered for about $83 million, according to records.

City tech officials had concerns with each bid. The Atos offer was deemed as potentially too costly, while the VESTA proposal required the use of another vendor’s products, the source involved in the review process said.

Representatives for VESTA and Atos did not respond to requests seeking comment.

City Councilmember Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island), chair of the Committee on Fire and Emergency Services, wants to know if the chosen vendor will provide onsite staff to maintain the system after it is launched.

In a May 30 letter to now-former DoITT Commissioner Sami Saini, Borelli also asked if the vendors gave “firm, fixed price bids” for everything detailed in the request for proposals.

Eusebio Formoso, the interim DoITT commissioner, replied to Borelli that the department was unable to answer those questions because “the city has not yet finalized selection of vendors for the subsystems.”

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