Written by Ann Mathisen Friday, 27 November 2009 10:16At some point in the near future, Port Washington may be circled by a halo of cell-towers. Their effect would be anything but angelic judging from recent public opinion. Tonight, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m., Manorhaven’s village hall should be packed for the second time with angry and concerned citizens. Giovanna Giunta, a Manhasset Isle resident and local organizer, commented, “This battle is about the safety and well being of our community. We will stand united to protect our children, Port Washington and our property values. It’s not too late for the tower to be removed and to correct the errors of the past. We’re only in Round 2 and will continue fighting.”
Currently, a Stop Work order is in effect. Since the last meeting, residents discovered that the tower is placed in the wrong location despite the variances granted by Manorhaven’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Mayor Meehan didn’t return a call for comment.
A few blocks away, the Village of Baxter Estates is involved in a similar controversy. A village meeting held last week, attended by residents and representatives from T-Mobile, discussed the proposed cellular antennas for the rooftop at 299 Main Street. Kristin Vonkoff, a Baxter Estates homeowner, succinctly outlined the situation after an hour of discussion. She referred to The Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prohibits municipalities from rejecting tower applications based on health issues, (perceived or otherwise.)
It’s interesting to note that Vonkoff formerly “troubleshooted” for a private satellite network. She said that back in 1991, when she had to service satellite dishes, 23 stories above Lexington Avenue, she was given a stopwatch and told not to spend more than 10 minutes working near the cell phone towers that were adjacent to the dishes. This was five years prior to the legislation and eerily reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s knowledge about the dangers of cigarette smoking years prior to public awareness.
Patti Wood, local environmentalist who heads up Grassroots and is a board member on Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, commented, “Considering the rapidly growing body of scientific data about the harmful health effects of electromagnetic fields, and in particular radiofrequency (RF) radiation, it is irresponsible to say that cell phone towers pose no risk to the public. In fact, contrary to popular belief, wireless technology has not been proven safe by either the FCC or the wireless industry itself.”
Ms. Wood advised that in August 2004, one of the largest labor unions in the U.S., The International Association of Firefighters, decided not to allow antennas near or on top of fire stations because firemen are already “beginning to show symptoms of electromagnetic radiation.” Other countries, alerted to the indication of harm, use precautionary principles in regard to the cellular industry, she noted, continuing that some prohibit cell-phone sales to children and began issuing warning labels on packaging.
Ms. Wood referred to the thousands of people living within the eight block transmitting radius and the number of children (including those playing on the PAL Field, studying in the library or enrolled in the Landmark’s facilities and programs) that would be exposed to electronmagnetic radiation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
She said that cellular phone companies continue to use data more than 20 years old and employ the defense that the data found in academic journals doesn’t hold up to scientific standards. They also issue comments that relate to the effects of thermal values, meaning no one will be burned by standing or living close to a tower, rather than to the effects of radio frequency waves. However, she adds, international studies continue to report that people are experiencing, and will in increasing numbers, chromosomal damage that leads to specific types of cancers from electromagnetic radiation. These include cancers of the brain and auditory system, she said.
Unlike the 125-foot tower now standing in Manhasset Isle, T-Mobile designed a rooftop placement west of the “penthouse” utility room for 299 Main Street. Three sets of antennas facing south, east and north, originally designed to be placed on a steel mount, will now stand enclosed approximately 7’ high. Although the cell-tower on Manhasset Isle remains visible from Shore Road, T-Mobile was apparently unaware of the FCC’s mandate to coordinate cellular locations. The mayor of Baxter Estates, Fred Nicholson commented, “The village is very sensitive to community concerns. We’re anxious to hear back from T-Mobile on the aggregate or the compounding effects of having too many antennas in close proximity.”
The building’s owner, Convas Holdings LLC, didn’t return a call for comment. Jolani Jewelers has nothing to do with the antennas and unfortunately has received too much negative attention about them. Although the building’s recent high-end renovation added to the ongoing beautification of lower Main Street, it’s been suggested that the antennas will block waterviews, disturb perspectives and erode lovely aesthetics.
Nancy Curtin, the executive director of the Port Library expressed the library’s concern that the site is a dismal one because it disrupts “one of the more historic streetscapes that has been captured in art books and the library’s local collections.” Currently, the view down Main Street from the library’s outdoor balcony is unobstructed much like it might have appeared when Port was originally settled. She said a worse location couldn’t have been chosen.
Most Port residents agree that the preservation, maintenance and renovation of lower Main Street needs to be addressed. Although it’s not yet designated as a historical district, the proposed antennas may strike some as visually displeasing and a mar on the landscape. Ms. Vonkoff commented, “We live here because Port is beautiful and how long we stay this way remains to be seen.”
One resident noted, “People who don’t live within the 8-block radius of these towers may not care presently, but as cellular companies map out plans for cell towers and antennas for the rest of the Port peninsula without objections, any future concerns may be moot.”