East 16th Street residents say Verizon is giving them the shaft — literally — by planting unwanted utility poles on the block’s wireless street instead of placing their wires in backyards where they belong.
The company installed five wooden poles on the block between Avenues J and K in February to upgrade its high-speed internet, television, and phone service, and since then residents have been battling with the telecommunications giant to move them into their backyards — where wires for other utilities, including Verizon’s older telephone wires, have been strung for years — hiding them from view and making the streetscape more beautiful.
“They’re a blight on our block,” said Ann Kaslow, who grew up on the block and is accustomed to clear views. “If I open the door and look across the street, the poles and the wires are going to make me sick.”
But Verizon says it installed the poles only because it could not get permission to work in backyards from all the neighbors, a necessity to get the job done.
“Every home owner was asked,” said Verizon representative Richard Windram. “There were about four that said no.”
Neighbors say that’s not true, claiming they never heard a peep from Verizon before the poles went up.
“There was no letter in the mail or anything,” said Maryann Caputo, who owns two houses on the block and lives in one of them with her husband. “This came as a complete shock to us.”
To get the poles taken down residents each signed a form in June saying they would let Verizon do the work in their yards.
At that point, Kaslow says, two Verizon reps told her the poles would be coming down.
But then, she claims, the company said the residents had to do more.
At a July 25 meeting organized by the Community Board 14, Verizon representative Nasser Nasser told residents that they each would need to provide a notarized easement — a legal document allowing them the use of the residents’ backyards for wiring — in order for the work to progress, according to Kaslow.
Windram confirmed that the company did change the type of documentation it was asking of the neighborhood due to an oversight, but he said the neighborhood has had the proper paperwork since June.
At a CB14 meeting last week, he assured residents that the company would somehow solve the problem.
“They may not get the poles with the wires,” said Windram, “We’re going to try to work with them again.”
Still residents were skeptical of the company’s intentions.
“They’re [being untruthful with] us because they think we don’t know the law, or the terminology,” said Caputo.
It’s not the first time the company inflamed residents by putting up unwanted obelisks.