T-Mobile: Can you hear us now? - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the March 2008 Juniper Berry Magazine

T-Mobile: Can you hear us now?

Protestors at the BSA hearing

2nd BSA hearing scheduled for Maspeth cell tower

Members of the Juniper Park Civic Association testified against Omnipoint's plan to erect a cell tower atop 53-20 72nd Place in Maspeth at the Board of Standards and Appeals on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008.

JPCA Executive Board Members Manny Caruana and Tony Nunziato spoke out against the plan at the hearing, which was held at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan. Joining them were Assemblywoman Marge Markey and representatives of Councilman Dennis Gallagher, State Senator Serf Maltese, Congressman Joe Crowley, Borough President Helen Marshall, Community Board 5, Maspeth Town Hall and COMET. About 30 residents of Maspeth turned out to protest the plan.

Background

Failing to realize that public opinion would overwhelmingly be against the idea, the owner of Frank's Deli, Joe Wroblewski, signed a contract with Omnipoint last year to erect the tower atop his adjacent 2-story residential building. The location is in close proximity to many other residences as well as Maspeth Town Hall. After the public outcry over the assault on neighborhood aesthetics and possible hidden health hazards posed by the tower, Wroblewski said he regretted signing the contract but could not renege on the deal as it was binding.

However, the company seeking to install the tower is free to withdraw their application for the special permit at any time. Omnipoint already has several other cell towers in this area. Community Board 5 and Borough President Helen Marshall have both issued advisory opinions against the cell tower, and every local elected official has come out against it. The last step in the permit process is the Board of Standards and Appeals which can approve it regardless of the other opinions.

"I am totally dismayed that Omnipoint would go against the wishes of community board 5, every elected official and the people of this community and continue to seek a special permit to erect this cell tower," said Tony Nunziato, Chair of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force.

The First Hearing

Speakers at the BSA hearing made the point that the 27' tall, 36" wide tower disguised as a flagpole would destroy neighborhood character. Other points made were that the building may not structurally be able to support it. The T-Mobile representative stated that there were gaps in cell service to both buildings and cars within a mile-and-a-half radius of the location that were identified by computer modeling and verified by actual testing. CB5 District manager Gary Giordano was cynical, as he said he had done his own testing and never encountered a problem making or receiving phone calls in the vicinity. Assemblywoman Marge Markey produced a map obtained from T-Mobile's website shows that there is maximum cell strength in the areas surrounding the proposed location. Tony Nunziato speculated that T-Mobile is probably not erecting the tower to enhance their own coverage, but rather to sell or lease it to other cell companies.

The Commissioners asked for the width and height of the tower to be reduced, which Omnipoint agreed to try to do. They made it clear to the applicant that other sites located within manufacturing or commercial areas, or in one of Maspeth's cemeteries, should be considered and that they were to return with a complete analysis of these alternatives. They also expressed concerns over the impact that lighting the flagpole at night would have on the quality-of-life of neighbors.

The Next Hearing

The BSA tentatively scheduled a second hearing for April 15, 2008 to allow the applicant time to comply with their requests. We will provide you with more details as the date approaches. Please log on to www.junipercivic.com for updates.