Park Slope Courier
Critics Fight to Restrict Cell Towers
By Thomas Tracy
Legislation that will keep cell phone towers and antennas 500 feet away from schools is close to being passed. Photo by Ted Levin
If a piece of Brooklyn-inspired legislation comes to pass, cell phone towers will begin to be placed farther and farther away from our schools.
At least, that’s the hope of opponents to the increase of cell phone towers and antennas in the borough, who were all smiles last week after the first of many pieces of legislation about the siting and placement of these towers passed its first major hurdle – a scrupulous review from a legislative committee.
On Wednesday morning, the New York State Senate Committee on Local Government approved legislation sponsored by Bay Ridge Senator Marty Golden.
The bill would prohibit the erection of cellular towers and antennas within 500 feet of schools throughout New York City. Officials said that the bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks.
“There is a continued controversy over whether cellular towers pose health hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation,” said Golden. “Until there is some conclusive evidence that shows that there are no harmful effects related to this radiation, we cannot in our right mind allow for these towers to be placed near a school, emitting radiation into classrooms, lunchrooms and gymnasiums throughout New York City.”
Similar legislation, which was sponsored by Carroll Gardens legislator Joan Millman, is currently being mulled over in the Assembly. Her bill would prohibit the placement of any cell phone antenna or related equipment within 500 feet of a school building. Both bills also require that municipalities be notified within 90 days prior to the placement of a cell phone tower.
“Until we can determine the health risks associated with cellular antennae, we need to regulate how and where they are sited,” said Millman in a statement.
Golden’s legislation was written in response to parents of St. Anselm’s
School in Bay Ridge, who are continuing to fight the construction of a
Sprint/Nextel tower expected to be placed just 50 feet away atop 8300 4th Avenue. Parents at the school didn’t know that the tower was coming until a crane showed up one night.
“For companies to come in the dark of the night and simply erect these towers is unacceptable,” said Golden. “Communities should not have to wake up and find that a cell phone tower was placed near their school or their home.”
The committee’s passage of the bill was hailed by St. Anselm’s parent Chris Proscia, who has spearheaded the fight against Sprint/Nextel.
“Nextel’s people were lobbying all week to get the senators in the committee to vote against it, but it didn’t work,” said Proscia. “I think they’re running scared.”
For years, parents of school age children have complained that the
radiofrequency radiation crackling from these towers could pose a hazard.
Officials from Sprint/Nextel and other cell phone companies continue to contend that all of their studies show that their towers are not dangerous. Parents counter by stating that since no long term studies have been performed, no one can be sure if the students are in danger.
The regulation of cell phone towers have been a hot button issue across the borough. Just last month, a group of legislators, calling themselves the Coalition to Reform Antennae Safety (CRAS) was formed to advocate for cell phone antenna placement regulation until all possible health risks are accurately assessed.
Community activist and Congressional candidate Chris Owens, a founding member of CRAS, saw the passage of the Senate bill through committee as a “sign of the law catching up with the science.”
“I think it’s just a matter of time when these laws get passed,” he said. “The law will have to catch up with the science until it is absolutely clear that the science is not dangerous.”
Owens predicts that further pieces of legislation regulating the placement of cell phone towers and antennas will be passed “in the next year.”Leave a reply →