Pole vault! Verizon extends deadline to keep wires off street

Midwood residents have gotten another chance to keep off the pole.

Verizon has extended the Oct. 31 deadline it imposed on residents of E. 16th Street between Avenues J and K to obtain consent forms so the telecommunications behemoth can string new wires in their backyard — instead of the street, where the company has already put up controversial poles that will bring the block new high-speed Internet, television and phone service. Those neighbors have for six months been demanding that the company keep the fronts of their homes wire- and pole-free.

“That is good news,” said Ann Kaslow, who spearheaded the fight against the unwanted plinths, after we told her the news that the deadline had been extended.

And it couldn’t have come any sooner.

Kaslow led a crowd of concerned residents in the thick of Saturday’s brutal snowstorm, on a door-to-door trek in what the group believed was a last-ditch effort to get the written consent from their neighbors that Verizon says it needs to install the backyard wires, which will provide high-speed internet, television, and telephone service. But the residents say they have only gotten consent from 12 of the 20 home-owners needed, and still don’t know how long Verizon will give them because the company won’t say for how long it’s extended the deadline.

“We haven’t decided with the community yet what it’s going to be,” said Richard Windram, a Verizon representative. “The community is going to get back to me.”

Despite the small victory, residents are skeptical.

In June, residents had obtained all but one consent form before Verizon abruptly changed the rules, notifying neighbors that the right-of-way form workers contracted by Verizon had originally distributed were no longer valid; instead, they needed notarized easements.

Some residents on the block question the validity of the grounds on which Verizon got a permit to put up the poles from the Department of Transportation in the first place.

“They got the permit by saying that they tried to get consent and that a lot of people refused,” said Kaslow. “But there is now way to corroborate what they said as true.”

Others were more certain of the company’s intentions.

“Verizon lied on its application,” said Maryann Caputo, who owns two houses on the block and says company representatives have never come to either one. “They never tried to get the easements.”

The Department of Transportation, which doles out pole permits, refuses to say what the company had told it to get the original permit to work on the block in November, 2010.

Residents are determined to continue their fight, for as long as it takes.

“You know what Yogi Berra said,” laughed Caputo. “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over!

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @from_where_isit.

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