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Response to Manorhaven: Armed Guards and Police Escort

Work on Manorhaven cell tower resumes; A.G. Towers becomes “phantom company”

The morning of March 27, 2012 will go down in local history as the first time armed guards and Nassau County police officers were thought to be necessary to protect a contractor’s project in Port Washington.

After a letter sent by Manorhaven village trustees to A.G. Towers on March 23, imploring them to reconsider the cell tower located at Pequot Avenue in Manhasset Isle, residents and trustees were hopeful that a dialogue might be opened. After four days of silence, A.G. Towers delivered their response. A work crew accompanied by an armed guard and several Nassau County police officers appeared at the site early Tuesday morning, March 27.

Local residents and officials seemed to be taken by surprise. Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio’s initial comment echoed what many citizens were thinking, “Can you believe that now we are the criminals?” The councilwoman, in a letter sent to A.G. Towers earlier in the month and in a public statement made to the village during the trustees meeting on March 22, offered her services in helping to resolve this situation through discussions focused on finding an alternate site. She said in an interview that A.G. Towers has become a “phantom company.” Efforts to reach the company have been unsuccessful.

Jonathan P. Fielding, Manorhaven clerk-treasurer said, “The village sent a strong and sincere letter to A.G. Towers on Friday, March 23, offering complete cooperation and a considerable amount of money if A.G. would accept an alternative to the Manhasset Isle site. Apparently, we received their answer yesterday morning (March 27) at 7:45 a.m., when their crane came rolling into the village accompanied by armed guards and Nassau County police. It is unfortunate that A.G. evidently has no interest in working with the village or helping the residents most impacted by their tower.” When asked if the village could be certain A.G. Towers received their letter, Fielding said receipt had been confirmed verbally by A.G. Towers’ attorney to “our attorney.” Fielding went on to say that, “The village issued a citation to A.G. Towers because they started work at 7:45 a.m. and the village does not allow work to begin before 8 a.m. We will be looking into allegations that the crane on site is not being properly supervised.”

For a long while there were no representatives of the village government present on Tuesday morning. A member of the building department arrived about 10 a.m., but remained in his truck and refused to comment. The armed guard and the members of the work crew did respond to questions. The guard was asked if A.G. Towers had sent armed guards to any other cell tower site. He said, “No.” When the man in charge of the work site was questioned about the use of a crane without a certified operator so close to a home, he said that the person with the proper certification would be there before the crane was put into operation.

It should be noted that the work was resumed under a valid contract executed by the previous village administration with A.G. Towers. The work on the tower had been stopped for two years while the village was engaged in two concurrent lawsuits, one with A.G. Towers in federal court and the other with local citizens brought in state court. The suit with A.G. Towers was resolved in late 2011, instructing the village to lift the Stop Work Order that had been in place since 2009. The village complied with the court ruling, clearing the way for A.G. Towers to complete work on the tower and bring it into operation. The suit brought by local residents against the village in state court was dismissed on March 22, because the plaintiffs had failed to either “withdraw their petition or amend the caption of the complaint.” Efforts to interview one of the lead plaintiffs in the suit against the village, Giovanna Giunta, have been unsuccessful.

The main health-related concern about living close to a cell tower is the possible link to cancer. Patti Wood of Grassroots Environmental Education commented to Port News, “I am especially concerned about the potential harm to children from the non-thermal effects of unremitting microwave transmissions. The use of this technology in non-military, non-industrial settings is relatively new and both its short and long term health impacts are not fully understood. The World Health Organization, after reviewing multiple peer-reviewed studies, has determined that this type of radiation is a possible carcinogen. Some studies have also reported neurological problems and hormone disruption.”

Wood further stated, “The United States lags far behind other countries who have greatly reduced allowable exposure levels. And as with all types of environmental exposures, children suffer disproportionately because of their smaller size and developing physiology. Placing a cell tower in a densely populated neighborhood where there are a great number of young families is unconscionable.”

No one seems to know what will happen next. Port News representatives were unsuccessful in attempts to reach A.G. Towers and their legal representatives for comment.