The Daily Plant : Monday, September 24, 2001
PARKS IS INSTRUMENTAL IN ESTABLISHING AN EMERGENCY MAPPING AND DATA CENTER
The moment the World Trade Center collapsed, New York City had a demand for maps as never before. Destruction had transformed lower Manhattan's financial district into a place unrecognizable even to those who'd worked there for many years. Thus, an urgent demand for accurate street maps of the neighborhood as it had formerly looked and new maps for navigating the rubble. Rescue workers needed to know where subway connections were and how many open, which roads could be used, where hospitals were located, how high the rubble was piled, and where the so-called hot zones lay. Within days, the demand for maps would be issued from sources as diverse as the Fire Department of New York, the Department of Defense, the Red Cross, the EPA, and FEMA. But at the moment that the twin towers collapsed, New York City was almost entirely without the GIS technology necessary for producing detailed maps.
MIS and NRG's Paul (Pirate) Katzer were able to supply the technology and the skill to establish an Emergency Mapping and Data Center at the Mayor's command post. For several years, Katzer has represented Parks on the New York City GIS Steering Committee, chaired by Alan Leidner, the Director of Citywide GIS. On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 11, Katzer and his colleagues on the board met to determine how emergency GIS maps could be made. Katzer contacted Parks' MIS which responded immediately with six workstations, a network computer, and staffers. From that moment, the Emergency Mapping and Data Center has been staffed twenty-four hours a day without interruption by roughly 60 people, working approximately 30 at a time. In that time the team has processed 700 map requests.
They are using information from aerial photographs, remote sensing imagery and thermal infrared data. But perhaps as impressive as their high technology, the Emergency Mapping Team is forging collaborations across previously unconquered institutional boundaries. Their collaboration is inter-agency, public/private, and joins the Federal, State, and City governments. Katzer, who serves as third in command at the center, commented that Parks is particularly well-suited to facilitate such collaboration saying, "our agency tends to be adaptable and of a flexible mindset. Because our managers trust their staff, we can get work done quickly. That's been a tremendous asset."
Katzer also pointed out that though the mapping center is operating at capacity and while its staffers are working unusually lengthy shifts, many are unwilling to go home when their workday ends. "People don't want to leave. They want to be there and be helping." Katzer, who was an emergency responder for many years, notes that for himself as well as for others there, the impulse to help is personal. "If I were still a responder, I would have been one of the people in the building. So it's very important to me that we're supporting the fire guys and the urban search and rescue guys."
Meanwhile, Katzer and MIS staff have made new friends among them Mayor Giuliani, the mayor of Jerusalem, and Muhammad Ali, all of whom have toured the facility. The team itself includes volunteers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, The American Museum of Natural History, and several different consulting firms, as well as the Transit authority, the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications among others.
Thursday afternoon, a work order tracking system went online at the center. Staffers at a request desk prioritize orders as they receive them. As the days pass, the work hours have not gotten any shorter, but the center has established an operational routine. At a 5:00 p.m. press conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Giuliani noted what a remarkable operation the center is. The Emergency Mapping and Data Center is expected to exist in its current capacity for at least another month. With each day of work, the technology becomes more deeply integrated into the city's operating system and its value is made manifest. It may be that this is the moment when GIS comes of age in New York City.
The Parkies who facilitated this achievement have earned the gratitude and respect of their colleagues at Parks. Keep it up!
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO IN THE PLANT
(Monday, September 26, 1988)
PELHAM BAY VISITORS CENTER
DEDICATED IN THE BRONX
Nature lovers who tour Pelham Bay Park, the city's largest park, can now marvel at a replica of a salt marsh, a meadow, a forest, a rocky shoreline and a coastal habitat, all recreated in the lobby of the new $50,000 Pelham Bay Visitors Center, which was dedicated today at a ceremony at Bruckner Boulevard near Wilkinson Avenue in the Bronx.
Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer joined Commissioner Stern and fifth- and sixth-graders from P.S. 71 and the Greek-American Institute at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the center.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately
it destroys those who practice it.
Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others,
the light within them dies."
Terry Waite (b. 1939)