All strung out: Verizon wires up E. 16th Street

The battle is over for residents of E. 16th Street in Midwood, as workers from Verizon wired its wooden poles on the street between Avenues J and K on Wednesday.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Verizon has begun wiring up E. 16th Street — ensuring that the controversial poles residents say were put in front of their homes without anyone’s permission will become a permanent neighborhood fixture.

Residents living between Avenues J and K — some of whom demanded that Verizon conceal its poles underground or in residential backyards — say a work crew showed up last Wednesday morning, ascended the five wooden plinths the company placed more than a year ago, and strung wires between them.

The company says the changes were a necessary part of its efforts to bring its new high-speed Internet, television and phone services to the area — but residents say Verizon is defacing their bucolic block.

“They’ve destroyed the beauty of our neighborhood with those horrible poles and wires,” said resident Maryann Caputo, who led an effort to get Verizon to pull up the poles and put them in homeowners’ backyards — where the company traditionally places its wires. “It’s very disheartening that they’ve defeated us.”

Caputo and resident Ann Kaslow spent the better part of a year rallying their neighbors to demand that Verizon change its plans for E. 16th Street. The two collected 145 signatures, and enlisted the help of a Chinese translator to get immigrant homeowners to sign their petition.

But Verizon said it wasn’t enough: Caputo and Kaslow weren’t able to get all of the homeowners on the block to agree, allowing the company to go ahead with its plans.

Verizon spokesman Richard Windram said he had “nothing to add” about the company’s decision to string up E. 16th Street. In previous interviews, Windram said it “wouldn’t be economically feasible” for Verizon to put the wires underground.

Yet residents insist Verizon disrespected them, claiming that the company never thought about altering its plans.

“Verizon is treating us the way it would treat people in rural areas,” Caputo explained. “They lied to us and they’ve been unfair.”

Others, like Kaslow, wondered why Verizon “hasn’t been forced to put the wires underground,” if the company was unable to put its poles in homeowners’ backyards.

Verizon did repeatedly extended Caputo’s deadline to collect support for her petition, but the company hasn’t won many friends in the neighborhood.

The communications giant failed to comply with Community Board 14’s request for information about its pole-placing policy, though it has since relented, and admitted that it broke city law when it installed a pole in the Fiske Terrace historic district without first getting the city’s permission.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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