The latest front of the cell tower wars is at Shore Road and 87th Street.
An assemblage of cell phone towers went up on the roof of 8701 Shore Road in the middle of last month, sparking outrage among nearby residents.
That outrage overflowed at the September meeting of Community Board 10, where a contingent of residents in the area complained about the situation.
Speaking to the group gathered in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, residents said they worried that the towers’ proximity might endanger their health and the health of their children.
David Stewart, a resident of 8701 Shore Road, noted, “I live on the sixth floor, so they are just about right over my head. I have a pancreatic mass, which is currently considered to be pre-cancerous. If it should turn cancerous, you have about a 3 percent chance of living.”
Jennifer Kokozakis, a registered nurse at Sloan Kettering who lives on 87th Street, said she was worried about her children. Kokozakis told the group, “I just had twins nine months ago and I’m pregnant again. I discussed this with some of the physicians (at Sloan Kettering) and they said that there is concern that this is possibly cancer-causing.”
“I have two daughters, seven and two,” added Elisa Cafaro, who also lives on 87th Street. “P.S. 185 is two blocks away from me. They fought with Verizon for a year to move the cell towers, and now they came right across the street from my daughters’ bedroom. This doesn’t seem fair. They are literally facing my kids’ bedroom.”
The presence of the cell towers on the roof of the building across the street from her home, “Affects my real estate value and affects my kids,” Cafaro asserted during a subsequent interview. “I really feel we’re guinea pigs for Verizon. They don’t know enough about it either way. Don’t make my kids an experiment.”
“They don’t have any proof that they are not dangerous to your health,” added 8701 Shore Road resident Barbara Light, who pointed out that the community appears to be inundated with the towers.
She noted, comparisons are drawn to microwaves. “If you have 45 microwaves going 24 hours a day above your head, how much radiation are you getting?”
Light – who lives on the sixth floor, directly under the cell towers – also said she was also worried about the stability of the installation. “I don’t think the roof is substantial enough,” she told this paper. “With Hurricane Hannah, had we gotten 70 MPH winds, they would have been down. I’m concerned that this thing is going to fall right down into my living room.”
David Samberg, a Verizon spokesperson, said, “No matter where we put them in densely populated areas, people will be concerned. That’s one of the challenges because people want coverage where they live.
“There’s no evidence at all that the antennas pose a health risk,” Samberg added. “People have been studying this for years. It’s a radio signal, no different from what radio or TV stations broadcast, just a different area of the spectrum.
“There have been a lot of people out there trying to prove that they are dangerous,” Samberg went on. “They haven’t been able to do it. But, people say, you can’t prove that cell towers are safe. We can’t win that argument. I recommend that people get as much information as possible. Don’t rely on Internet myths. Get the facts.”
If the facts about the health effects of cell towers are fuzzy, there’s little fuzziness about the legal limitations faced by state and local legislators trying to limit cell tower placements.
As City Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Assemblymember Janele Hyer-Spencer noted during the CB 10 meeting, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 put onerous restrictions on local control. Despite that, both Gentile and Hyer-Spencer have written legislation that attempts to increase restrictions on cell tower placement.
“We are hamstrung by what we can do with respect to prohibiting them,” Hyer-Spencer stressed. “We are really hamstrung with respect to notification qualifications. What I have tried to do with my state legislation is obviate that and move through zoning and planning provisions.
“The bill I put forward will not do everything,” Hyer-Spencer added. “It will merely limit them by footage and limit them by height. Specifically, you are not allowed to claim health as a reason to prohibit towers.”
Gentile, for his part, said that his legislation looks to require more of city agencies dealing with cell tower placement. “If we can’t regulate the companies,” he noted, “we can as a city regulate the agencies that issue the permits, so I’ve introduced a piece of legislation that would require the Department of Buildings to notify both the local community board and the local city councilmember every time a cell phone tower is applied for. That would allow us the time necessary to organize the opposition.”
Besides 8701 Shore Road, CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann said that the board had been notified of cell phone tower installations at several other addresses – 8801 Shore Road, 6701 Colonial Road, 1230 65th Street, 7501 Ridge Boulevard and 6702 Eighth Avenue.
“The issue of cell towers on residential buildings and the potential health effects to humans continues to be a recurring call at our office,” Beckmann noted during the board meeting, adding that the board had created packets of information on the subject for distribution to residents.
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