Pole position: City says Verizon skirted the law with major totems

Verizon tries the grizzly bear approach to thwarting vandals — huge, ugly poles in a historic district

Verizon broke the law — and the city let it do so — when it installed 20-foot-tall Fiberglass poles in historic districts in Greenpoint and Flatbush without getting permission to do so.

The telecommunications giant says that it is installing the poles as access points to its underground network of high-speed Internet and TV cables. But some of those poles are in historic districts, and the company broke the law by failing to clear them with the Landmarks Preservation Commission — even though it got permits from the Department of Transportation.

In Greenpoint, neighbors were flummoxed by the sudden appearance last month of the 20-foot monstrosity on Milton Street at Manhattan Avenue, which came to light after we published a story about a similar pole in Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park.

“Nobody likes it. Everybody wishes it were gone,” said Dorothy Gerace, who lives on Milton Street, a historic street lined with trees and brick row houses.

Neighbors who were enraged over the presence of the poles were further annoyed after finding out that Verizon did the work without all the necessary approvals.

“The fact that they would go ahead and do that without considering the neighborhood is pretty shocking,” said Nancy Beranbaum, co-president of the Fiske Terrace Association, which has called for the removal of its illegal pole on E. 18th Street near Glenwood road..

But Verizon denies that it skipped a step in the process.

“Verizon placed the pole with all required approvals, but we will continue to explore options that minimize the impact of these facilities on the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement.

Verizon would not disclose where else it has installed the poles, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation said the city has given out 142 Brooklyn permits to the company for the monoliths.

The company says that the poles are needed to safeguard access points to its underground network of high-speed fiber optic cables, claiming that commonly used squat metal boxes would be destroyed by kids, graffiti and vandalism.

But residents say that Verizon is the company committing the crime.

“As far as were concerned, they vandalized our neighborhood by putting in that pole,” said Beranbaum.

Two weeks ago, Verizon told us that the company is “permitted to place these poles in public ways at necessary locations … and the pole was placed with all required approvals.”

But that turned out not to be true.

“The city’s administrative code requires permits for construction in historic districts,” said Lisi De Bourbon of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “Verizon did need a permit, but we are working with the company on how to resolve the issue with the pole.”

The city says Verizon broke the law when it installed poles like this one in landmarked neighborhoods.
Photo by J.J. Despain