Cell tower disturbs City Island

T-Mobile wants to set up its 4G network on City Island, but most islanders oppose the cell tower that comes along with it.

“I’m vehemently opposed to this and so is everyone I’ve spoke to,” said Inge Otto, who has lived in her Pilot Street home since 1977. “I don’t see a need for it. We don’t have problems with reception and we want to keep out environment.”

At a recent Community Board 10 meeting, T-Mobile outlined its plans to build a 56-foot cell tower at 454 City Island Avenue. However, because City Island is zoned so that no buildings can be built higher than 35 feet, the company will need to get approval from the city before it can proceed with the project.

According to officials with the BSA, the company recently filed an application for a height variance, but no public hearing has been scheduled.

The community board, however, remains strongly opposed.

“We’re opposed it and we sought to have further conversations with T-Mobile about possible alternative sites. At the meeting we supplied them with a few, but they rejected them,” district manager Kenneth Kearns said. “They said they looked at other sites, but no owner would rent to them. They said it’s the highest point they can get and they need the height, so they’re going forward with Standards and Appeals because it has precedence over state or local regulation. They said that as a public utility they are providing a service for emergencies. So they’re saying they could do this as a right.”

Kearns said after the meeting the community board and company officials agreed to continue to discuss other potential sites where the cell tower could be located. However, community board members are not optimistic.

“After the meeting we agreed to keep talking,” Kearns said. “But they seemed pretty much married to the site.”

According to representatives with T-Mobile, the company determines suitable sites for towers based on analysis of the network, customer surveys and real-time drive data tests. The new tower should improve coverage in the area, and will therefore add to the safety and quality of life for residents, officials said.

“We’ve evaluated potential locations throughout City Island where families demand wireless service,” Jane Builder, of T-Mobile USA, said. “We believe that our application for one concealed rooftop site strikes the optimal balance between the needs of local wireless users and the interests of residents – many of whom rely on wireless service to stay connected to family, work , friends and emergency services.”

For Inge, cell coverage is not a problem on the island.

“Reception is fine on the Island. I have more problems on Hutchinson River Parkway going to Westchester than anywhere else,” she said. “There are not that many T-Mobile customers on City Island.”

For Inge, and others, the main problem is the environment.

“We want to keep our environment. We asked for the limitations to preserve the environment of City Island and if they break it everybody else can too,” she said. “The other cell antennas are within limits. If they stayed within the limits and, nobody would have done anything, but they feel they can bypass our standards for their company profits.”

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