Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00
Several riled up residents attended the board of trustees meeting last week to continue initiating discussions regarding NextG Network’s Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) that were installed in the backyards of nine homeowners in Garden City this past summer. Some residents raised questions about additional DAS being installed in other villages across Long Island, while others testified to the negative impact the antennas have on property values.
Last year, the village board responded to the concerns of residents and directed village staff to identify a professional engineering firm and obtain a proposal to perform a series of detailed tests within the rear yards and homes that are adjacent to the nine sites where NextG Networks installed antennas to rear yard utility poles in order to document radio frequency (RF) emissions. On Nov. 4, the board approved engaging VitaTech Engineering, LLC of Fredericksburg, VA, to perform the tests and submit a report of the findings at cost not exceeding $17,000.
At the December board of trustees meeting, Mayor Robert J. Rothschild told residents that 18 inspections were conducted on Dec. 6 and 17 inspections were conducted on Dec. 7. According to the mayor, the engineer from VitaTech was accompanied at each inspection by either the director of Public Works or the village engineer. “Inspections found that the Wi-Fi internal modems within the homes were at levels similar to the NextG installations. Cell phone readings were also noticed. All readings (NextG, Wi-Fi and cell phones) were well below the FCC limits (acceptable levels at 2100 MHz is 1000 microwatts per square centimeter. Measurements were less than 1 microwatt). Two locations had high electrical emissions and the residents were advised to contact LIPA or a licensed contractor for corrective action,” the mayor stated.
Since having a DAS installed in her backyard, Garden City resident Shelly DeMarco has expressed her growing concern about the decreasing property value of her home. “NextG [Networks] operates in an unethical, devious manner with no regard for the public interest or safety. For us they placed this equipment in the summer when they thought everybody was away on vacation. Recently, they placed the DAS in Massapequa Park would you believe on Christmas Eve? Their local mayor and board took immediate action to protect their constituents regarding their safety and property value,” she said.
“I have attended numerous Garden City town hall meetings on the DAS but I feel our voice is not being adequately heard and we are not receiving your full support in this matter. We have repeatedly asked to have this excessively obtrusive equipment dismantled and removed from our backyards that does not infringe on private property. Instead, you [the board] spent $17,000 to test the level of Radio Frequency emissions with the intention of doing this procedure only once,” she explained, adding that the testing needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis.
“You said the level is acceptable range. In my opinion, any level is not acceptable, also considering the proximity to the home, that it runs 24-7, seven days a week and indefinitely,” DeMarco stated, adding. “I have been advised by my real estate broker and others that everyone has been deterred from buying my home because of the DAS.” She went on to say that her property should be reassessed since it has no value.
Mayor Rothschild addressed the size and location of the NextG DAS boxes in Massapequa. “I am told that these boxes in Massapequa Park are in the front street level of people’s homes and the size of the boxes were, in fact, reduced from the size of ours, I believe by the width of it,” the mayor said.
Trustee Nicholas Episcopia clarified by explaining that he spoke with the mayor of Massapequa Park regarding the recent DAS installations. “Massapequa Park had the same situation…the access to those poles, the same problem that we had, specifically, that we do not have the ability to stop it. That this is something that is specifically in your title report. It is an easement. The difference being they’re in the front and ours are in the rear of our yards. In Massapequa, they are on the street,” he said. “After they took a closer look at what was going on, they compromised,” Episcopia said. He further stated that the boxes in Massapequa are slightly narrower, approximately 5 or 6 inches in width, but the height of the boxes are exactly the same.
Resident Mary Timmins, whose home is located within close proximity to a DAS, told the board that she recently attended a hearing about the DAS installations in Massapequa Park. She asked what Garden City Village’s next step will be in addressing the residents’ concerns regarding the equipment boxes. “I want my yard back. I want my village to hire an attorney to get us our 36 yards back and make sure that this doesn’t happen to our neighbors in the future,” she said.