It was a packed house at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting as residents expressed views on a, which is currently being constructed at 41 Pequot Avenue in Manhasset Isle. Citing zoning and code violations, residents said the tower can pose health dangers from radio-frequency (RF) radiation and that it’s an eyesore to the neighborhood.
This controversy dates back to October 2009 when a stop work order was issued to AG Towers/T-Mobile, but two years later the ruling was reversed after U.S. District Judge Hurley ordered the Village to take action within 10 days.
As residents shouted to the Board of Trustees, “Enforce village codes and move the tower to an alternate location,” resident Lucretia Steele called the tower a metal monster with a huge human cost attached to it.
“People are starting to move away from this tower because they do not want to take a chance with their children’s safety and health,” Steele said to the Board of Trustees. “You have given this the right to exist in our backyards, and it takes away our sense of security and safety.”
Resident Giovanna Giunta is concerned about code and zoning regulations with regards to the cell tower that she claims are not being enforced by the village.
“The retaining wall surrounding the tower is not built according to permit and its variance, which is 2 feet to [the] edge of one’s property instead of 5 feet,” Giunta said. “Why aren’t you addressing our codes; I want an answer from Mayor DiLeo.”
Newly elected Deputy Mayor John DiLeo said he would investigate the walls.
“If AG Towers is in violation of the village code, it will be rectified, and they will be forced to correct this,” DiLeo said.
According to the Village Attorney Gerard Terry, several letters from the Village Board asked AG Towers to move to another location. But to date, AG Towers remains unresponsive.
“I have also asked AG Towers for an updated RF study and they have gone silent on us,” Terry said. “They have never been a responsive group. We are under U.S. federal laws and the Village Board does not have the authority to stop this from existing.”
Terry added that property owner’s sewer lines would not be affected by this tower and that the Village has tried its best to come up with a viable solution.
However, resident Barbara Mallon said she has conducted research over the years concerning negative health effects from the tower.
“How do you measure emissions?” Mallon asked the Village Board. “I don’t trust T-Mobile; we need an independent study done. The FCC said that the tower is 75 times lower than it should be and it’s an imposed danger. Where is the proof that it is harmless?”
Angela Militana, who lives next to the tower says that because of the tower, she now has debris, shavings and uprooted plants in her backyard.
“It’s an eyesore to the neighborhood and the humming sound is annoying,” Militana said. “I need my home and property safeguarded.”
Others questioned the validity of AG Tower’s lease agreement, citing that the lease should be up in five years and then the company could be told to vacate. But Terry said the circumstances are not that simple.
“The lease is valid and it is renewable; meaning it can be renewed for a long time –possibly up to 50 years,” Terry said. “It’s been in and out of the courts for some time.”
The cell tower debate will continue as a discussion forum at future Village meetings.