2006-04-13 / Top Stories

Marine Park Residents Protest Huge Cell Phone Tower

By Debbie Cohen

Cell phone tower atop 3524 Avenue S was focus of protest Saturday by Marine Park residents. 
Cell phone tower atop 3524 Avenue S was focus of protest Saturday by Marine Park residents. Several days after a Marine Park Civic Association monthly meeting at which Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a guest speaker, dozens of angry Marine Park residents protested unsafe construction of a 14-foot tall cell phone tower on the roof of a local commercial building that they also consider a neighborhood eyesore.

Despite a steady rain Saturday afternoon, more than three dozen residents protested the shoddy installation of the large tower at 3524 Avenue S and addressed future health hazards from the tower.

Angry residents shouted, "They're not going to get away with this," as they marched through local streets. State Senator Marty Golden, who represents the community in Albany, told the protesters, "Marine Park is not going to take this lightly. We do not know the ramifications of health effects from the emitting rays from these towers 20 years down the line."

However the immediate concern of the tower's hazard became apparent last December. Bob Solowitz, who lives across the street from the cell tower, told Bloomberg at the April 3 meeting that, when it was under construction, the company doing the work failed to erect scaffolding and several bricks from an exterior roof wall fell to the sidewalk. Though no one was injured, Solowitz said residents immediately contacted the city's Department of Buildings and 311 and an investigation ensued. The DOB consequently issued a stop work order, which a spokesman told the Courier this week, will remain in effect indefinitely - possibly weeks or months - until a DOB constructional engineer and an architectural engineer from the company installing the tower complete an assessment. The DOB will then determine whether a new permit should be issued. If the cell tower is deemed unsafe, the agency could order it removed.

Inset:Building owner Hwang Park   Debbie CohenInset:Building owner Hwang Park Debbie Cohen Fire Chief Edward Kildruff said at last week's meeting that he was concerned about the stability of the building "under the weight of the tower," which, he indicated, may be too heavy if firefighters are ever dispatched to the two-story building.

Solowitz also complained that the huge tower's aesthetic impact on the neighborhood is a quality of life issue. The tower, installed by T-Mobile, weighs 10,000 pounds and is 8 feet above what is legally allowed on this type of building, he claimed.

Mayor Bloomberg (left) addressed the recent Town Hall meeting in Marine Park.              Kristen ArztMayor Bloomberg (left) addressed the recent Town Hall meeting in Marine Park. Kristen Arzt At the civic association's meeting at P.S. 207 on Fillmore Avenue, Bloomberg responded that, while it is presently legal and "as-of-right" to build cell towers to provide better cell phone service, "we will not allow this project to go forward until it is deemed safe and there are no violations, in accordance with the Buildings and Fire departments. This assessment will be reported back to the Marine Park Civic Association," he said.

Hwang Park, the landlord of the building on which the tower sits, said he has a contract with T-Mobile and would receive $1,250 per month once the cell tower is up and running. "I signed a five-year lease and I cannot break the contract or I will be sued. If I knew that this would cause such an uproar, I never would have signed the contract," Park said.

Marine Park Civic Association Secretary Peggy Accardo said Community Board 18 offered to help Park find a lawyer and help with the legal fees, but Park refused.

Joseph Zilenberg, a resident who lives down the street from the tower, said it is "an eyesore and property values can decrease due to this."

Marie Figueroa, who lives near the tower, feels that this location is not appropriate. "The front of the building is zoned commercial. However, the back of the building is zoned residential and this is a residential neighborhood," she said.

Some other protesters said that this is greed and that their quality of life has been compromised. Others voiced concerns that emergency construction crews have been dispatched during severe winds to secure the tower from falling.

Senator Golden has already proposed legislation that would compel cell phone companies to notify residents three months in advance when they plan to erect a tower in their community and to stay at least 500 feet from schools.

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