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Cell no! Ridge board wants to cut the phone cord

One cell of a problem
This is a common sight in Bay Ridge, as kids and adults continue to protest cellphone antennas. Cellphone companies insist that the equipment is harmless.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

A Bay Ridge group that has long fought against the proliferation of cellphone towers is calling on the city — and the federal government — to cut the cord on the controversial antennas.

Community Board 10 voted nearly unanimously on April 20 to demand that limits be placed on the number and location of cellular towers, citing a concern about their danger and their aesthetics.

“People became worked up when these huge structures started going up,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of the board, which drafted a letter to the Department of City Planning insisting that the agency develop a zoning text amendment regulating the installation of wireless transmitters in residential areas.

The board also signed onto a petition seeking federal action to prevent the spread of cellular antennas — which have gone widely unchecked since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 limited state and local governmental power over the installation of such equipment.

Cellular providers have repeatedly insisted that the antennas are entirely harmless — and entirely necessary in order to carry the borough’s calls.

Ridgites have fought against cell towers since 2006, when protestors thwarted the construction of a Sprint/Nextel tower near St. Anselm’s School on 83rd Street. In 2007, 81st Street residents protested against cell towers installed atop an apartment building, and last year, parents from Ridge Boulevard’s PS 185 rebelled against antennas rising across the street from their school.

One PS 185 activist celebrated the board’s backing.

“Something must be done – whether it’s restricting where they can be put, or doing something to limit how many one neighborhood can have,” said Tressa Kabbez, whose group eventually won its battle against Verizon when the cellular giant agreed to move the antennas — though the transmitters were later reinstalled on Shore Road.

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