2005-07-15 / Front Page

Board 14 Fights Broad Channel Cell Tower

A piece of the cell tower rests this week in the yard behind Mama’s ice stand on Cross Bay Boulevard. A “Stop Work” order is posted on the property’s fence. Photo by Alyssa Goldstein
A piece of the cell tower rests this week in the yard behind Mama’s ice stand on Cross Bay Boulevard. A “Stop Work” order is posted on the property’s fence. Photo by Alyssa Goldstein Community Board 14 is aggressively opposing a 30-foot cell phone tower that could soon go up in the heart of Broad Channel – even though the city has already issued a permit for it.

The board’s opposition to the tower, to be erected behind the Mama’s Italian Ice trailer at 816 Cross Bay Boulevard, is spelled out in a July 12 letter to Patricia L. Lancaster, Commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

“The district office of Community Board #14 strongly opposes the issuance of permit #401833780… for the purpose of constructing a 30-foot cell tower with accompanying telecommunications cabinet,” begins the letter written by CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska.

“Our concern is that this location is directly adjacent to a number of homes and questions of safety and appearance remain unanswered. The Broad Channel community has come a long way over the last decade and this industrial-like use is out of context with the surrounding neighborhood,” the letter continues. “I ask that you rescind this permit.”

Gaska voiced a less restrained opinion of the tower in an interview with The Wave this week.

“Aesthetically its going to look like s—-,” he said.

The DOB, meanwhile, says CB14’s concern is misdirected.

“We will not get involved,” DOB Spokesperson Jennifer Givner declared. “We can’t rescind a permit based on appearance. We would have to have some other justification,” she added.

Givner, who was irked by the letter’s suggestion that DOB could prevent the tower from going up, said the department is concerned only with the structural stability of the tower and its supports.

The DOB did issue a stop work order at the site in May when an inspector discovered the Mama’s Italian ices trailer, which is not covered by the property’s certificate of occupancy.

Joseph Porto, the Howard Beach resident who owns the property, is meeting Monday with a committee formed by the Broad Channel Civic Association. Porto and BCCA members were reluctant to speak with The Wave until the outcome of that meeting is known.

Porto did acknowledge the two major complaints against the tower.

“I’m still working with the community to put it in the best position,” Porto said addressing the concern over how the tower will look. “I don’t understand why [people would think] it’s an eyesore.”

As for the health concerns, Porto says he can’t find credible evidence to suggest that the tower would create a danger to people.

The Wave first reported that cellular operators were scouting locations on Broad Channel in October, 2003. That story reported that the Federal Communications Commission, which shared overlapping jurisdiction over cell towers with the Federal Food and Drug Administration, all but dismisses the notion of the antennas causing health risks.

“In order to be exposed to levels at or near the FCC limits for cellular or PCS (personal cellular service) frequencies, an individual would have to remain in the main transmitted radio signal (at height of antenna) and within a few feet from the antenna,” according to the safety section of the FCC’s website.

Community members, property owners and cellular operators have been clashing city-wide as cell phones continue to proliferate and the network that supports them grows.

Property owners are generally attracted to the deal because it typically takes an unused part of their property and converts it into a source of income. Rooftop leases reportedly can bring the property owner nearly $20,000 annually.

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