Today’s news:

911 call center shrinks

by amanda marinaccio

Good news for Bronx residents as the 911 Emergency Call Center is brought down in size and price.

On Monday, January 26, the NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, along with his staff, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the architectural firm Skidmore Owings & Merrill, met at Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office to discuss the current status of the backup 911 Call Center.

The structure, planned for construction on land acquired from Simone Development by the New York City Police Department behind Waters Place, was originally expected to rise 350 feet, but after budget cuts forced cutbacks and significant community opposition, the building is now expect to be around 250 feet high. This represents a significant decrease from over 35 stories to 25, and may even be reduced further.

To prevent the increase in traffic caused by the building that will be in operation 24 hours, 365 days of the year, the new plan includes a bus service that will enter the property, easing the burden on the Bronx’s already congested roadways. According to the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, the city also proposes to add a private shuttle service for employees to nearby subway stations.

Vinny Prezioso, member of Community Board 11 and president of the North East Bronx Neighborhood Association, adds they are still hoping to include an on-off ramp for the Hutchinson River Parkway directly onto the property, removing all those extra cars from the already crowded Pelham Parkway region.

The cost of the new building is estimated around $ 750 million, but is expected to continue to decrease.

“Even though I know our City needs to have a backup center, when I heard that price tag in this time of financial deprivation I thought it was way to high,” said Vacca. “I asked them to go back and see if further alterations can be made in the city’s best interest. It went down from $ 1 billion. But what happens with these projects is the actual price is always more, there is always an unforeseen increase in cost.”

Another meeting will be held in several months, where in response to Vacca’s request, a more finalized set of plans will be presented, though the city still estimates beginning the project in late 2009.

“It was a good meeting, but there is a hold until they come back with more information,” said Gene Tutora, member of the Chester Civic Improvement Association and CB11. “It isn’t read to go yet, and Jimmy Vacca and CB11 aren’t ready to approve it at this point because we don’t have all the details in front of us.”

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