2006-01-06 / Community

Cell On Wheels To Roll Into Broad Channel

The owners of a Broad Channel property where a 30-foot cell tower was once proposed have obtained a new permit to park a mobile cell antenna there, The Wave has learned.

Ralph and Joseph Porto, the Howard Beach men who own 816 Cross Bay Boulevard, a corner property off East 9 Road, were approved December 15 for the installation of a temporary “communications on wheels (COW) with antennas,” according to records filed with the Department of Buildings.

Ralph Porto told The Wave last week that the plan for the 30-foot-tower, which last summer drew the ire of an outspoken group of Broad Channel residents, has been nixed. Opponents challenged the tower, which had also been approved by the DOB, on the basis of aesthetics and potential health issues. “For some reason everybody thinks were going to leave the property looking like garbage,” said Porto.

Now, Porto said, the short-term plan is for the COW to roll onto the property which has only a trailer parked on it cattycorner. The long-term plan includes a structure, perhaps a restaurant, which would have cell panels atop the roof, he said. “We’re looking for funding for a building and a business that would be good for the community and the economy,” said Porto.

Porto was not sure exactly when the COW would arrive.

Cell operators have for years been interested in placing an antenna in Broad Channel to eliminate a dead zone that causes bad connections, spotty reception and dropped calls.

The Porto’s have had much interaction with the Broad Channel Civic Association and its Cell Tower Committee, elected officials and cellular providers over use of the property for a cell antenna.

The Federal Communications , which shares overlapping jurisdiction over cell towers with the Federal Food and Drug Administration, all but dismiss the idea that antennas pose health risks to people. “We’re trying to put people at ease,” Porto said. “We’re not out to hurt the community.” Donald Minor, a representative for the Broad Channel Civic Association’s Cell Tower Committee, could not be reached for this story.

Brian Magoolaghan

Two examples of communications on wheel units being used in other areas.

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