Monday, June 22, 2009

"Honey, Did We Plant A Cell Tower On The Front Lawn?"

As Cell Towers Rise, Suburban Vistas Decline

Its a balancing act.

Preserving suburbia -- the mantra of local officials -- and bowing to progress (if we could really call it that).

Cell phone transmission towers (or so-called "receivers") popping up, sometimes in the most unlikely of places -- like smack dab in front of single family homes (the very icons of suburban life) -- all over Long Island, frustrating local government officials (who cling fast to the party line of "we have no control"), and causing outrage (though not quite enough to do anything more than complain) among the citizenry.

In Nassau County alone, one wireless company, MetroPCS, has already installed some 275 cell towers, 169 of which are located in the Town of Hempstead.

The latest tower to be erected, seemingly overnight, and without notice to anyone, was a 40-footer in front of a private residence in Franklin Square.

True, federal law, and the NYS Public (yeah, right) Service Commission, permit the cellular carriers to dictate when and where these unsightly towers will be planted, pre-empting local governments from taking any action to stop them.

But who died and made these cell phone giants -- the folks who charge us aplenty for service that costs them but pennies to provide -- the Ayatollahs of the western world?

And how is it that town government is stymied when it comes to protecting residents from the outlandish and the ugly, while adjacent villages, who, in theory, have no more of a right to pre-empt the proliferation of cell towers than do the towns, appear to be able to ward off these towers of babble with relative ease?

In the unincorporated nether lands of Long Island's towns, local legislators simply stand by, looking skyward, scratching their heads. [So, what else is new? Thank God for name recognition. If they had to get elected on merit, fuggetaboutit!]

Ah, yes. Its the old "path of least resistance."

How strange. Half way around the globe, protesters take life in hand, literally, shouting "Death to the dictators!"

Here at home, we permit -- without permit -- private cellular companies and timid local government officials to dictate the ruination, at least aesthetically, of our suburban quality of life (so much for preservation), with barely a whimper, lest our cell phones, so we fear, go silent.

Bad laws and regulations, the ones that unnecessarily conflict with or undermine the desires of the people, much like bad government, should be toppled and overturned.

Not by bullet, for our fine-feathered (sans the tar) local officials, whose idea of preservation runs only as deep as the next election cycle, and whose avowed lack of control (over everything from those taxing special districts to the erection of unsightly cell towers) has left the suburban landscape blighted, and homeowners' bank accounts barren.

No, the ballot is our weapon, and a most lethal one, at that.

The power to change that which we do not like, and to preserve that which we do, lies not in the hands of either the wireless giants or the "there's nothing we can (or care to) do" elected officials.

That power, dear friends, is yours!

Do with it as you will. . .
- - -
From the Franklin Square/Elmont Herald:

Residents shocked by 40-ft. pole Goes up without permits, notification
By Matt Hampton

Residents of Franklin Square’s Willow Road were shocked by the abrupt arrival this month of what looks like a permanent resident on their block: a utility pole for wireless services.

On June 4, Rosalie Rella left her home to go to work. When she returned in the evening, the immaculately manicured narrow strip of lawn between the curb and sidewalk near her home was occupied by a four-story-tall wood pole. Rella had not been notified that any work would be done in the neighborhood.

“I don’t care what it costs to get rid of this thing, it’s going to come down,” Rella said. “I’m not the one who put it up, but I’m the one who pays taxes on this property.”

It turned out that the cellular company NextG Networks had installed the pole. Rella said that when she called the company’s public relations office and Town of Hempstead attorneys, she was told that NextG did not have to get permits or neighborhood permission to erect the pole because it was being treated as a utility.

“We pay the taxes from here to the curb, but we have no say about what goes there?” Rella asked. “I’m paying almost $12,000 in taxes to the town, but I can’t say when a tree goes up or comes down, or something like this.”

Maria Genova, who lives across the street from Rella, said she was terrified that a private company could come into her neighborhood and put up what amounts to a utility pole without any warning, let alone the knowledge of the community. “We need permits to do anything — change our house, install a swimming pool, anything,” Genova said. “We pay taxes on this property. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Susie Trenkle, spokeswoman for Town Supervisor Kate Murray, said that NextG has been recognized by the New York State Public Service Commission as a utility. “Therefore, we can’t restrict where they site poles,” she said. “We’ve been working on this and trying to deal with it, but at this point, what the town is trying to do is work with [NextG] as far as siting them.”

Trenkle said the poles are not technically cell phone transmitters, but are rather a kind of wireless receiver, which makes them different from something a private company would erect. NextG works with wireless carrier MetroPCS, according to published reports. MetroPCS uses a wireless signal to transmit communication much like a cell phone — and for the same purpose — but the signal is actually radio waves, as opposed to a digital signal.

Representatives of county Legislators John Ciotti and Vincent Muscarella both came out to examine the pole and wait with concerned residents on Monday, as they anticipated a meeting with local representatives from NextG. Anne DeMichael, from Ciotti’s office, and Angela Bosco, representing Muscarella, said they were not sure what, if anything, could be done to prevent the poles from being used.

“One thing’s for sure, though,” DeMichael said. “We have never seen anything like these poles before.”

Rella has circulated a petition in her community that she said already has more than 200 signatures. Her goal is to get the pole out of her neighborhood. “I want to get this thing down, and maybe have them put it over by the parkway,” she said, indicating nearby Dogwood Avenue, which feeds onto the Southern State Parkway. “People don’t notice them out there.”

After meeting with neighborhood representatives, NextG Networks said it would be willing to install a light pole on the corner that could be used as a cell phone receiver, instead of the obtrusive 40-foot pole.

Rella said that aside from the awful aesthetics, she was concerned about the radiation that a cell tower receiver gives off. She was told by company representatives that radiation levels are no more harmful than those emitted by a microwave, a fact that is cold comfort to her.

“This is the kind of thing you find out was bad after the fact,” she said. “I’m not worried about the older residents, I’m worried about kids who play outside and have to deal with it. We’re not far from two schools.”

A representative of NextG Networks did not return a phone call for comment as of press time.

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-800 ext. 214.


  1. "— but the signal is actually radio waves, as opposed to a digital signal."

    WHAT? And digital signals don't use radio waves? Who writes this crap? Uneducated people.

  2. We're having the same problem with MetroPCS here in the San Fernando Valley. No permits and the towers are sprouting up all over our neighborhood.