Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 21 May 2010 00:00
A group of residents in Manhasset Isle are angry about the cell tower on Pequot Avenue. While Mayor Mike Meehan has sent a letter to AG Towers informing them that they need to move the tower to an alternate location, these residents believe that the Village of Manorhaven has not done enough. As a result, this group has formed the Manorhaven Revival Party and they have announced the following candidates for the upcoming Manorhaven Village Office election on June 15: Giovanna Giunta - Mayoral Candidate, Mark Lazarovic - Board of Trustees candidate, and Dorit Zeevi-Farrington - Board of Trustees candidate.
According to a statement released by the Manorhaven Revival Party, they are “running on a platform to promote the return of control of village affairs to the residents; the establishment of ethical, transparent and communicative government that encourages residents’ participation in problem solving and law making; and the preservation of the village’s residential way of life.”
This group first became vocal about the cell tower last spring, which led up to a larger group of people attending the October 22 Manorhaven Board of Trustees meeting to complain about the cell tower. One of their major complaints was that they felt the village was not listening to them and not doing enough to fight the cell tower. Mayor Meehan told them that he never would have approved the cell tower, which was approved under the Capozzi administration. The board passed a unanimous resolution to hire the law firm of Lynne, Gartner & Dunne, on behalf of the village, to investigate legal options in respect to all grants, approvals and permits previously issued. The mayor also acknowledged that communication could be improved, and since then, Mayor Meehan has been sending monthly updates on this situation to residents.
The main concerns about this cell tower are the possible health risks. According to many EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) safety and health groups, the electromagnetic radiation from cell towers can be harmful to people, especially children and senior citizens. These EMF safety groups commonly site the Kempten West 2007 study, which measured blood levels of serotonin and melatonin (important hormones involved in brain messaging, mood, sleep regulation and immune system function) both before, and five months after, the activation of a new cell site. Twenty-five participants lived within 300 meters of the site, and substantial, unfavorable changes occurred with respect to both hormones, in almost all participants, the study states. This study recommended that a cell tower be placed no closer than 300 meters away from people, with 400 meters being the recommended distance.
However, studies that show adverse health risks due to proximity to cell towers have no effect on the law. The federal telecommunications act prohibits state and local governments from interfering with telecommunication services, and a cell tower falls under that category. In Mayor Meehan’s recent statement, he said that “federal law substantially prohibits opposition by municipalities to the locations selected by telecommunications companies for cell phone transmission facilities.”
Another complaint from the residents on Pequot Avenue is the damage that occurred on residential property while the cell tower was under heavy construction. Angela Militana, whose house is several feet away from the cell tower, has dealt with many problems since major construction began last spring. She claims that a pre-construction assessment was never made, and because the developer did not follow these guidelines, they had free range.
Ms. Militana said that cracks in the outside brick walls of her house immediately appeared after the developer began excavating the lot less than five feet from the house and hammering sheets of cement deep into the ground. She said that the whole house was shaking when this first happened as if there was an earthquake, and many delicate items inside her house were broken, due to the heavy vibrations. Also, she said that she has not been able to open up many windows in her house since then, and many doors do not shut properly anymore, either. It appears that the frames of these windows and doors are now slanted downwards towards the construction site, which could mean that the foundation of her house is leaning towards the part of the cell tower site that was excavated and could make the house unstable, she said.
Ms. Militana also said that the crane operators were not supervised and they were operating the cranes very close to the power lines. She said that after looking into this, she found that the crane operators were not properly licensed. Additionally, she said that there were construction workers who were consistently on her property while working, and she said that she found that they were not properly insured.
Mayor Meehan said that while he is sympathetic to Angela Militana’s plight, it was the contractor who caused the damage to her home, and therefore, it should be settled between them. Ms. Militana does not think that it is fair that she should be left to fight the cell tower developer on her own, since the cell tower is on village property. She also said that no one from the village reached out to her about the damages to her property, and she wishes that they had been more involved.
Members of the Manorhaven Revival Party also claim that it was the residents who pushed the village to issue the stop-work order. Mark Lazarovic of the Manorhaven Revival Party said, “The village’s response has been very slow – they haven’t forced AG Towers to do the right thing. They finally stopped them after we notified them that the tower is in the wrong location.” However, the village administration argues that Superintendent of Buildings David Mammina, who issued the stop-work order, is a consummate professional and was gathering the same information on the problems with the cell tower construction.
Lazarovic also said that the village should be putting pressure on AG Towers. “I believe they have a right to withdraw the permit, to rescind it. They have been too accommodating to AG Towers.” He added that he worries about the cell tower being so close to the pump station, and what sort of effect that could have on the village. “The pump station services 10,000 people. If it fails, the health situation would be a disaster. You would have 10,000 without sewage – without use of their bathrooms,” he said.
Dorit Zeevi-Farrington believes that the village should be able to take action against AG Towers. “They know that it was granted illegally and there are many reasons that they can rescind everything, but they are not making the right moves. All they are doing is putting up a good façade until the election,” she said. In regards to Mayor Meehan’s recent statement, which was that he told AG Towers to move the cell tower, she said that it does not show results. She thinks that if they stay in office, the cell tower will remain at its location.
As a whole, this group believes that the relationship that exists between AG Towers and the village is one of tenant and landlord, since AG Towers is leasing the property from the village. They think that the village should have the right to evict them, since they have been irresponsible tenants.
Giovanna Giunta, Mark Lazarovic, and Carmine Bicchetti have taken legal action against the Village of Manorhaven to bring about a resolution to the cell tower issue. Giovanna Giunta said, “Basically, they forced us to, because they were not stopping the project so we had to get a temporary court injunction, and that’s what we were granted.”
In a statement released to Port News, Ms. Giunta explained her reasons for running for mayor and stated that she and her husband grew up in this village and made the decision to raise their children here. She said that they love this area and “want it to be the wonderful village it used to be in the not so distant past.”
As for the cell tower, Ms. Giunta said, “The cell tower is only one example of mishandling of village affairs by the Mayor and his Board of Trustees due to the lack of foresight, non-existent communications with the residents and little concern for the people.” She added that she is unhappy about the blame that is placed on the previous administration for the cell tower and said, “Mayor Meehan and his board had every opportunity prior to the granting of the variances, immediately after and even now to correct the errors of the past. It has been a year and no effective action was undertaken to resolve the matter, even after our discovery that the tower was placed at the wrong spot and our demands for a Stop Work Order. It’s all been empty promises. It’s time for a new administration to take the reins and stand by the people.”
Ms. Giunta also explained that the situation between this group and the village is about the safety and the well-being of this community. “We are a group of people who stand united, coming together to protect our children, our community and our property value. Furthermore, Manorhaven needs revival and this is why we formed the Manorhaven Revival Party.” She added, “As Mayor, I will work hard to preserve our residential neighborhood and village quality of life. I want the people to have the ability to deal with open, transparent government. I want them to be able to get involved in how the village is being run.”
Mayor Meehan stated to the Port News that he believes the blame that is being placed on him for the cell tower by this group is politically motivated, due to the upcoming election. He also said that he understands that the residents care deeply about getting rid of the cell tower, but has said, “If it were that easy to get rid of the cell tower, why in the world would the cell tower still be there?” He said that the village cannot just take property rights away and they cannot break an existing contract. If they did this, Meehan said that the village would suffer huge consequences, meaning that the village could be sued by large companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile, which could potentially bankrupt the Village of Manorhaven.
The village administration has also stated that AG Towers currently pays the village some money for rent. All of this money has gone into a special trust account, so the village is prepared to give the money back at the drop of a hat.
Additionally, the village administration said that the previous administration sent legal notification of the public hearing on the cell tower to all of the residents through certified mail, and there was no response from the residents. However, these residents claim that this notification had the wrong date for the public hearing, without any correction.