2009-03-06 / Community

BC Cell Tower Planned Across From Playground

By Jennifer Pagano

A T-Mobile cell tower that is to be placed on top of a new building under construction in Broad Channel, directly across the street of a playground, has sparked outrage among local residents and parents objecting to its location.

The proposed site is directly across the street of a children's playground, at 818 Cross Bay Boulevard, and will also stand within one block of a school, and steps away from the local shopping area. Building construction at this site has repeatedly been delayed by New York City Department of Buildings stop work orders due to unsafe work conditions, shortage of money and falling debris.

Locals also charge that the construction vehicles near the site block the bus stop and their engines are left idling for hours.

Despite the virtually non-existent cell phone coverage in most areas of Broad Channel, residents have time on their side to convince T-Mobile to choose an alternate site.

Construction is expected to last another five to six months on the building, according to Broad Channel resident Mo Sartor, a strong voice against placing towers at this particular site.

Sartor suggests that the towers be erected near 2nd Road, the beginning of Broad Channel, which will provide adequate service to the area while out of harm's way for most children and residents.

Sartor says residents believe this site is, in fact, better suited to the needs of T-Mobile, and is strategically, a better placement to meet their objective of providing crossover coverage from Howard Beach and Kennedy Airport, while still providing coverage to Broad Channel and the Rockaway area.

"This alternative property is in a rural part of the neighborhood, clearly away from homes and playgrounds and is available immediately," Sartor said in a letter to T-Mobile.

All involved in the debate over the tower location are in agreement that, due to current technology, there is a need for T-Mobile wireless equipment on the island and that it is inevitable it will be installed somewhere.

However, Broad Channel residents believe that, as a community, they should be a part of the discussions regarding the actual placement of this equipment.

According to Sartor, over the past three or four years, T-Mobile has been

paying $1,600 a month on their contract with Joseph and Ralph Porto, the owners of the new building, and has achieved next to nothing.

This project is $57,600 over budget and three years behind schedule.

This leaves Sartor and others opposed to the tower location wondering why T-Mobile is refusing to move to a better site that is available now, in lieu of another site that the town feels will be sure to get hit with building violations over and over again.

Jane Builder, a T-Mobile spokesperson, however, wants the community to know that the company is actively seeking to identify a suitable location for their wireless equipment in Broad Channel, but has encountered certain obstacles that have placed particular site options off limits.

"As we determine the best location for a site in Broad Channel, be assured we will do everything we can to strike a balance," Builder said in her letter to Sartor.

Repeated attempts to contact TMobile to speak about the proposed cell tower have not been returned, as of press time.

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