2005-08-05 / Front Page

Full Speed Ahead On BC Cell Tower

t is my intention now to move ahead,” says Joseph Porto who owns the property and holds the license in regards to a cell phone tower that is planned for the heart of Broad Channel.

Porto made that statement shortly after a meeting held on July 28 with Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, members of the Broad Channel “Tower Committee” and experts from T-Mobile, the company that plans on building the 30-foot cell tower facility at 816 Cross Bay Boulevard.

Porto says that those at the meeting were convinced by expert testimony that “having a cell tower close by makes it safer to use individual phones because those phones need less power to find a cell.”

He indicated that the community was ready for him to go ahead with his plans.

Others at the meeting, however, say that just isn’t so.

“The people from T-Mobile had an expert that made a presentation that basically said that there were no health problems from the cell site,” said Pheffer. “Then, the people from Broad Channel made equally compelling arguments using some research from valid sources that say there are health problems.”

“I don’t think either side convinced the other,” she added. “They went head-to-head and nobody came out the winner.”

Pheffer says that the Broad Channel representatives, Donald Minor and Helen Arena, made the valid point that long-term studies have yet to be done. They pointed, she said to asbestos and lead paint as two substances that were believed safe for many years and that we now know cause cancer.

Minor, in a wide-ranging interview with The Wave, laughed at the contention that Porto thought everybody was convinced that the cell tower is safe.

“We presented what we thought was medically wrong with the cell tower site,” he said. “There is still a danger to the kids in the park and to the baby who sleeps in a room only 21 feet away from the tower.”

“Nobody in that room who is opposed to the tower at that site changed their mind one bit,” he added.

“We are not against a cell site in Broad Channel, because we understand that there is a hole in service north of here. We are, however, opposed to that site.”

The city issued a permit for the cell phone tower last year. A stop-work order was issued, however, when the city’s Department of Buildings found Mama’s Italian Ices on the site, a business not included in the site’s land use permit.

In July, Community Board 14 wrote a letter to the Department of Buildings urging them to rescind the permit, something the city has not yet done.

The experts from T-Mobile have promised to revisit the company’s intent to build on that site, without a promise that the site may be changed.

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