2008-03-28 / Front Page

Cell Shocked

By Howard Schwach

Dozens of congregants and community residents arriving for a hastily called meeting at West End Temple on Monday night, to address the question of erecting a cell phone tower on the Neponsit synagogue's roof, were shocked to find a large, orange handwritten oak tag sign on the door announcing that both the meeting and the cell tower contract had been cancelled.

Congregants and neighborhood residents look at the sign posted on the door of the West End Temple on Monday night, announcing that the community meeting had been called off and the controversial cell phone tower project had been cancelled as well. Congregants and neighborhood residents look at the sign posted on the door of the West End Temple on Monday night, announcing that the community meeting had been called off and the controversial cell phone tower project had been cancelled as well. "Notice, meeting cancelled as of 3 p.m.," the sign read. "No cell installation as per letter below."

The letter taped to the sign was from Victoria Brennan, an official with Metro PCS, the company contracted to install and maintain the tower.

The letter released the temple from its contract to build the cell antenna and offered some solace to the community.

"Metro was proposing to install six antennas on the roof, not a cell tower," the letter argued. "These types of installations are all over the United States. They are installed on hospitals, churches, schools, apartment buildings, office buildings and water towers. As Dan Collins pointed out in the meetings he attended with the temple, these installations have shown to have no affect on the health and welfare of the community.

Sign that greeted meeting-goers at the door of the temple. Sign that greeted meeting-goers at the door of the temple. "[Neither] Metro nor the temple wants to move forward with the lease agreement," the letter read. "Metro does not want to force a telecommunications site upon a community that highly objects to such an installation."

A member of the temple's Board of Trustees handed out flyers to those who came to the door, reading, "West End Temple is pleased to announce that the contract with Metro PCS has been rescinded upon mutual consent and that cell phone antennae will not be erected on the temple's property."

Those who had opposed the tower's installation ever since they learned about the contract in mid-March cheered the decision, which was made by the company in conjunction with temple officials.

Groups of locals discussed the situation after reading that the contract to erect a cell tower on the temple's roof had been cancelled. Groups of locals discussed the situation after reading that the contract to erect a cell tower on the temple's roof had been cancelled. "I'm glad it's over and the tower won't go up," said Jim Capozzi, one of the anti-tower neighbors of the temple, which is located at 147-02 Newport Avenue. "I don't want it to end, however, with the belief that we won by using the big lie. We won because we told the truth about the potential dangers of the tower to our children."

Capozzi, who was holding his threeyear old daughter in his arms outside the temple Monday night, added "We don't want it to look like we won the battle by telling a bunch of lies."

Lori Musumeci, a temple trustee, in a letter to The Wave this week, said that her group acted in good faith by signing the contract, which would have brought $2,800 each month in much-needed revenue to the cashstrapped synagogue.

"Although the majority of the board [of West End Temple] believes that it acted in good faith in our vote to sign the contract with Metro, we also acknowledge that public opinion and perception are very important at this time," Musumeci wrote. "[The temple] has heard your cry, but ours must be heard as well."

The board member added that she is puzzled by the outcry.

"… Our community is surrounded by cell towers, which have gone up over the past ten years," she wrote. "Most of us were not aware of the existence of those towers. Nobody was informed about them; no petitions were filed, no articles written, no surveys taken. In fact, their installations were nonevents."

Board members told The Wave that they would now start an outreach to the community at large as well as a series of fundraisers and discussions designed to make up the revenue lost by the demise of the tower project.

"We must all support this wonderful institution and what it offers, from the nursery school to soccer, yoga, adult and children Jewish learning … and programs that help the poor around the globe," Musumeci concluded. "We play a vital part in our community."

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