‘NET LOSS IN PARKS
CITY IS BUNGLING WI-FI PLAN: CRITICS
By SAM GUSTIN
October 23, 2006 — Bureaucratic bungling, incompetence and old-fashioned greed have short-circuited a plan to install free wi-fi in city parks, critics charge.
Two years ago, the city Department of Parks and Recreation awarded a contract to set up wireless Internet access in 10 city parks, but to date, only two of those parks are up and running.
Parks spokesman Ashe Reardon conceded that only a handful of “hot spots” in Central Park currently work. Wi-Fi Salon, the company awarded the contract two years ago to take the parks wireless, claims Battery Park also is online.
“It’s been a long process,” said Reardon. “But we’re working on it.”
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer told The Post she’s “frustrated” by the situation and blasted the Parks Department as “technologically challenged.”
Wi-fi activists also are fed up.
“No one at the top of the Parks Department food chain knows anything about wi-fi or the Internet,” said Dana Spiegel, the executive director of NYC Wireless, a volunteer group.
In one case, she said, the department demanded a $1.5 million insurance policy from the community group Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza after it said it wanted to install a free hot spot there.
“I don’t know what liability the city was worried about,” said Friends director Tom Payne. “That the antenna would fall on somebody’s head?”
In another example of bureaucratic bungling, a firm building Philadelphia’s free, citywide wireless network offered to construct a hot spot in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn at no cost to the city – but the department held it up, critics said.
Sources inside and outside city government charge that the department is dragging its feet in order to sign up corporate sponsors – and pump revenue out of them.