Old Westbury hears proposal for 22 cell nodes across village

Old Westbury hears proposal for 22 cell nodes across village
Crown Castle attorney Robert Guadioso, left, addressed Old Westbury trustees during a public hearing Monday night about installing 22 cell nodes in the village. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

The Village of Old Westbury Board of Trustees held a public hearing Monday to discuss 22 proposed cell nodes across the village.

Attorney Robert Gaudioso spoke on behalf of the applicant, Crown Castle International Corp. In 2010, NextG Networks Inc. entered into a right-of-way use agreement with the village before the company was acquired by Crown Castle, Gaudioso said.

Now, Gaudioso is back before the Old Westbury trustees to request 22 new nodes in the village, 11 on existing utility poles and 11 on new poles.

“This isn’t to cover the highway,” Gaudioso said. “This is to cover not only the local roads, but also the local homes in those areas. Nowadays, it’s no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Cell nodes are installed on existing or new utility poles and emit radio frequencies that boost cell phone service. (Photo courtesy Crown Castle)

Newly installed poles, Gaudioso said, would be 45 feet tall. Many of the existing poles range from 29 to 34 feet, he said.

Trustees and residents said they were concerned about the look of the tall poles, and Gaudioso said the technology and poles were similar to those along the South Shore and across Long Island.

“We don’t want to look at the Island, we want to look at Old Westbury,” Mayor Fred Carillo and Trustee Edward Novick responded in unison.

Gaudioso said the company has two cell node options: one placed on the top of the pole, and one placed on the side of the pole about three-quarters of the way up. Both types emit radio frequencies of 700 MHz, which gets into buildings and travels further, as well as 2100 MHz, which provides a greater capacity, Gaudioso said.

The nodes will only provide service to Verizon Wireless customers.

“Crown Castle does not build this infrastructure on speculation. They build it for a client, in this case for Verizon Wireless, and they don’t do it for speculative need,” Gaudioso said. “They confirmed in this case that Verizon Wireless had a need for additional coverage capacity in this area.”

Carillo and Trustee Cory Baker said they have both experienced dropped calls in the village and have heard complaints from residents about spotty cell service.

“On Old Westbury Road, I lose the signal all the time. There is a coverage issue,” Carillo said. “The question is: Do we need 22? Do we need them that high?”

Residents spoke out at the public hearing about safety concerns, including new Old Westbury property owner Jonathan Feigenbaum.

“I would not have bought property if I knew it was close to a cell tower,” Feigenbaum said. “The Village of Old Westbury is getting a bunch of new cell towers to improve the cell signals, and that to me is putting it in front of my child’s health. I don’t think that’s good for the village.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission, radio frequencies used by cell phones are not dangerous, and the limits on the emissions from the antennas are below what the scientific community believes is safe, Gaudioso said.

A map of the proposed new pole locations was distributed to the crowd, and many residents who live near the sites said the map markings were incorrect.

Resident Gary Selmonsky of Post Road said there are multiple utility poles near his house, yet one of the nodes is proposed for his property.

“There are many, many, many, many utility poles, and I don’t understand why it has to go on my property when there’s so many poles on the other side,” Selmonsky said. “It seems very arbitrary.”

Gaudioso said the sites were chosen after Verizon studied holes in coverage.

At the end of the hearing, Carillo said Gaudioso’s client needed to mark with stakes where the proposed nodes will go so residents can have a clearer understanding of their locations. Once the map errors have been resolved, Trustee Edward Novick said the information would be available at Village Hall and on the Old Westbury website for residents to see.

“I will make sure there’s accurate information here at Village Hall, so everyone can educate themselves with accurate information,” Novick said.

Plandome and Plandome Manor both imposed six-month moratoriums on the installation of telecommunications facilities this summer, and Flower Hill approved a similar one-year moratorium Aug. 1.

Plandome Heights approved a law in July restricting the construction or alteration of antennas and towers without a special exception permit from the village.

The surge in telecommunications laws is, in part, due to an inquiry from ExteNet to install 66 nodes across the Town of North Hempstead. Town officials, however, said no application has been filed yet.

The public hearing was continued to the Sept. 18 meeting.

“We want to make sure it’s safe, we want as few as possible, we want them as short as possible and we want the best coverage,” Trustee Leslie Fastenberg said.

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