Agitated Port Washington residents caused a stir at the meeting Thursday night in response to the Village’s Oct. 5 decision, without any notification, to keep the AG Towers cell tower in place.
First up to speak was Giovanna Giunta, who has been fighting against the cell tower for quite some time.
“A stop order was issued two years ago by the Village of Manorhaven to AG Towers for putting the cell tower in the wrong location as per the permits and variances originally given,” Giunta said.
Although AG Towers said it would put the tower in the correct location, that is no longer the case.
“The United States District Judge ordered the Village to take action within 10 days,” said Village Attorney Gerard Terry. “The board, which is the corporate entity, had to meet to review the judge’s order, with council, and to make a determination as to how it was going to respond.”
Giunta, as well as other angry audience members, felt the board gave in too easily.
“What was the urgency to set up an emergency meeting on Oct. 5, not notifying the residents and making decisions again as usual without involving the residents to whom you are supposed to be representing?” Giunta questioned.
Mayor Michael Meehan reiterated the quick decision was prompted by the Federal government, and although it was a tough decision to make, it was a necessary one.
“It was two years that we made it as difficult as possible for them and then we were given an order to either move it a few feet and disrupt the whole neighborhood or just let them put it where it was, which was a Federal mandate,” Meehan said. “There was nothing that could be done about that.”
Mark Lazarovic then stated his opposition to the .
Lazarovic said moving the cell tower would be in compliance and it would be more secure; and he wasn’t happy with the 5-0 consensus from the board.
“The option that the board ultimately decided to go with was under the recommendation of the Superintendent of Buildings,” Terry said. “[During executive session], I can tell you that the discussion was lively, that a very intelligent internal debate was had over an extended period of time among the five elected officials…You are more than entitled to disagree with that decision.”
Victoria Spielman then stated her dissatisfaction with an Oct. 26 letter she and other residents received, arguing that the Village’s decision wasn’t written into the Oct. 5 minutes.
“You made a decision for other people and most of you don’t even live on Manhasset Isle, but you made a decision without asking the people that were affected,” Spielman said. “I think it was very discourteous.”
“Our feeling was to [move the cell tower] would have placed the infrastructure of the village at grave risk to just dig it down for an amount of money that they’ll just write off and continue moving on,” said Trustee Patrick Gibson. “It could have ended up with us not being able to flush our toilets in this village, and that was our concern.” Gibson was referring to the fact that the tower is situated next to a property that houses a sewer pump station.
Also in the audience who wished to speak about the cell tower were Republican candidates Dina DeGiorgio, Lee Tu and Eric Zausner, but they were told by Mayor Meehan prior to the opened public forum that political candidates were not allowed to speak.
The board insisted that despite what the residents thought, it fought hard against this issue and that their decision was not an easy one.
“Everyone here is upset still, we’re upset still, but the end result is…this is what I told everybody before we ever went to court against the cell company….Council said to me, in essence, ‘You’re going to end up fighting and spending a lot of money and in the end the Federal Government is going to come through with a decision and the cell tower is going to go up, and that’s what happened,” Meehan said.
One man asked if there is still something the people can do to fight against the Federal government’s decision.
“My opinion is, as a practical matter, the issue is concluded,” Terry said. “I would not want to tell you or anybody here to refrain from anything that you think you ought to do, that you should do, that you want to do, but in general terms, as an attorney who has been involved in this matter from the beginning, this horse is out of the barn…it’s over.”
Giunta, however, said she wouldn't giving up without a fight.