2009-10-23 / Front Page

Antenna System Installation On Light Poles Discussed

By Stephanie Petrellese

Artists rendering of proposed cell phone tower. Light fixture on left is an existing pole; fixture on right is proposed new tower.
Artists rendering of proposed cell phone tower. Light fixture on left is an existing pole; fixture on right is proposed new tower. They are currently involved in litigation with a local south shore community, but representatives from NextG Networks, Inc. are hoping to keep a cordial business relationship with the Village of Garden City as they install their Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) on 15 light poles on residential streets within the Village.

“This agreement that’s on the agenda here tonight before you is essentially an offer by NextG to enter into a spirit of cooperation with the Village so the Village can provide some input and feedback into our design, equipment, criteria, equipment location, so on and so forth,” said Peter Broy, NextG’s director of real estate, at the October 15th meeting of the Garden City Board of Trustees.

NextG has been hired by MetroPCS Communications Inc. to install the systems, which consist of an antenna and box, to close gaps in cellular service coverage. Broy made it clear: under federal law, NextG has the right to deploy its equipment in public rights of way, with the understanding that public rights of way are held in public trust. The right has been given to NextG because the state Public Service Commission recognizes it as a public utility. The right of way use agreement presented to the Board is not necessary, but is being offered by NextG in an attempt to be a “good corporate citizen.”

Garden City Mayor Robert J. Rothschild admitted that his first reaction upon seeing photos of the poles with the equipment attached was displeasure. Most light poles are 22 to 25 feet high; with the NextG antenna, the height could increase to 48 feet. The dimensions of the box installed on the side of the pole near the top will be 48 inches in height, 19 inches in width and nine inches in depth.

Three different light poles will be affected. NextG replaces the entire street light because it has to run conduit inside the pole, as well as attach an antenna to the top and a box to the side.

The proposed locations include: Clinch Avenue & Stratford Avenue, Tanners Pond Road & Somerset Avenue, Newmarket Road & Kildare Road, Somerset Avenue & Kensington Road, Hilton Avenue & 10th Street, Warton Place & Heath Place, Edgemere Road & Yale Street, Euston Road & Newmarket Road, Wyatt Road & Wetherhill Road, Stratford Road & Wickham Road, St. James North & Butler Place, South Avenue & Roxbury Road, Wilmar Place & 6th Avenue, Kellum Place, and Clinton Road & Huntington Road.

The mayor said that cellular service antennas have become more visible on apartment and office buildings, but this is really the first time residents will be seeing them in their neighborhoods. “Now you’re getting into putting things on people’s street corners,” he said.

Broy said he wanted to correct a common misconception that people have shown resistance to believing: that at 20 watts, NextG’s equipment poses no ill threat to health. “Our equipment is so low-powered....We are so far below the minimum established guideline the FCC sets that there is absolutely no health concern whatsoever.” He said it is on par with the service offered by a cable operator within the village. The Village’s share of gross revenues will mirror those provided by cable providers with a franchise to operate in the Village.

Trustee Laurence Quinn, who has a Ham radio license, said the wattage is “not insignificant.” He asked if the company has considered installing fewer, but taller, antennas. The coverage area is much smaller at lower heights. Broy questioned whether taller antennas would fit into a residential neighborhood. He also emphasized that the systems have been strategically located to ensure the gaps MetroPCS is experiencing are fully covered; moving the system to a pole a few feet away can have a significant impact.

Trustee Quinn asked if the boxes can be buried underground. Broy said that the equipment is very sensitive and would be negatively affected by the moisture.

Residents were given an opportunity to make comments or ask questions. William Bellmer asked why they systems will not be installed on poles located behind houses. Broy said it is a utility easement issue, and his company is not in the business of negotiating with individual homeowners.

Leo Stimmler asked NextG, as well as Long Island Fiber Exchange, to be careful with the trees in the area.

NextG connects to a client-owned hub station, usually a leased building containing all of the cellular service provider’s equipment, with fiber optic. MetroPCS’ hub is located in New Hyde Park. NextG takes the client’s radio frequency signal, converts it to light and pipes that signal through their fiber optic design, which is called DAS.

NextG will be renting fiber from LIFE, which plans to extend its fiber optic network, which currently ends at Clinton and Stewart Avenues, into the Village. The cables will be located underground. Installation will briefly disrupt the land between the sidewalk and curb in some areas.

Arnold Finamore asked if it is possible that one day there will be three cellular service providers on one pole, which would mean three boxes and antennas. Broy said the company has installed these systems in 30 states. In most cases there is just one provider.

Kathleen Auro became angry as she described the disruption on her street during the summer when electric cables were being installed. She asked that NextG show more regard for residents than LIPA. Broy said the company’s installation crews will “be sure they’re courteous.” She also observed that some of the installations are planned near Stratford School. Broy reiterated that the equipment’s wattage is far below the minimum stated in FCC guidelines.

Mayor Rothschild said he hoped Broy will seriously consider residents’ concerns and how installation will impact their everyday lives. “We still have a long way to go before this gets done, but I don’t want you to get the feeling right off the bat that we’re not neighborly and welcoming to the people coming in and operating within the Village, who hopefully will give us better service for cell phones and anything else we need,” he said.

Broy would not comment on the current litigation which has been covered by local news outlets, except to say “NextG is not the evil corporate citizen,” which he claims is how some articles have been portraying the company. He said NextG initially always approaches a community with cooperation and partnership. “It’s not always met with a spirit of cooperation on the other side,” he said.

Most recently, it was reported that the South and North Merrick civic associations, with the support of Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and the Merrick Gables Association, have requested that its members boycott MetroPCS. Many Merrick residents were angered that their town was the recipient of close to 35 of the NextG’s planned 170 DAS installations within Nassau County.

NextG representatives and the Town of Hempstead and Merrick civic leaders entered into negotiations to move some of the equipment, but the relationship soured in August when the Merrick Gables Association filed a $100-million lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Mineola against NextG, MetroPCS and the Town of Hempstead. The suit seeks an immediate halt to such installations by all wireless companies. The plaintiffs contend the Town of Hempstead should have done more to support them and their property values, which they claim were lowered as a result of NextG’s installations.

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