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Planning Board Approves Cell Panels Despite Protests

The board issued their ruling under protest and urged residents to take action.

Over 400 signatures, hours of testimony and urgent appeals weren't enough to stop the approval of a series of cell phone panels to be constructed at 300 South Broadway.

Last night, the Village of Tarrytown Planning Board approved the application by Metro PCS to place an array of six antenna panels on top of a six-story residential building, upsetting residents who had worked hard to have the plans denied.

"I am very disappointed, I feel helpless," said 300 South Broadway resident Anna Povich de Mayor.

The cell panel issue has caused a stir in the South Broadway neighborhood (full story here which also describes FCC regulations on frequency emissions). Residents of the complex, along with hundreds of families who have children that attend Transfiguration School, raised their concerns about exposure to radio frequency radiation that will be emitted from the cell panels.

For its part, the Planning Board had continuously said it could not deny the Metro PCS application based on concerns over radiation and its effects on humans. Municipalities are bound by the FCC's Telecommunications Act of 1996 which states that local governments can't deny placements of antennas specifically on environmental grounds.

When the board gave its approval last night, they did so under protest, noting again their inability to deny the plans.

"We should adopt this resolution, under protest. It's a very frustrating position to be in," said Planning Board member David Aukland. "I share the general concern... but it boils down to saying they (Metro PCS) comply with village codes."

Some residents who attended the meeting said the Planning Board could have been more productive in helping residents find a way to have the cell panels relocated. Jan Kozlowski, who lives about a block from the proposed panels and has three children attending Transfiguration School, said that residents were flying blind without the board's guidance.

"I am a little bit dismayed by the attitude of the board," he said. "I thought they could have helped to better guide us.... Don't wring your hands and say there is nothing we can do."

One of the issues residents are facing is that the majority owner of the 300 South Broadway building has already signed an agreement with Metro PCS for the installation of the panel array. Both residents and Transfig families want to know the terms of the agreement, and if it can be changed.

"He signed a contract, he made a mistake and he needs to get out of it," Povich de Mayor said. "We're going to have to figure out the terms of the contract and what is in it."

Chair of the Planning Board, Stanley Friedlander, said that although he had to vote yes on the application, he personally urged residents to take matters in their own hands and apply pressure on the building's majority owner and Metro PCS.

"I do think economic pressure should be applied to people who know economic pressure," he said.

Friedlander retold an incident he was personally involved in where tenants paid their rent into an escrow account to force the building's landlord to listen to their demands.

"The sad part of the story is my wife was six months pregnant and the landlord went to a local court and had us evicted," he said.

Despite the cautionary tale, both residents of 300 South Broadway and families attending Transfiguration said they would continue to fight to proposed panels and would seek legal counsel.

"We're not happy, the residents of the building aren't happy," Kozlowski said. "The next step is to come together and gel and organize and we're going to start doing that. This is not over yet, it is just the beginning."

Patriot March 29, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I don't know much about cell phone signals, but isn't there a better place for these in town? on the roof of any government building? the TZ bridge?
Kevin March 29, 2011 at 11:56 PM
If we were to use just government buildings and the bridge, there would be many gaps in coverage. I don't know the details about this case, but until there is a great leap in the technology, we have to accept that if we want seamless cell coverage, these antennas need to be located where people need service. However, I have heard that, for example, instead of having a cell tower with a few antennae (antennas?), they could put many more antennas on utility poles around our neighborhoods. Aesthetically, it may be more appealing, but I doubt any resident would be thrilled about having one of those 15 feet from their bedroom window.
ASleepyBoy March 30, 2011 at 12:56 PM
It is the usual NIMBY (Not in my back yard) problem. Everyone wants the coverage but noone wants to have the antennas near them. At the same time, the alternative to not having the antennas near them (on buildings, utility poles, etc.) is to have large and often unsightly towers which generally create more opposition. Minimizing thevisual impact is of primary importance in our area since the health effect issue is simply not there. Fact of the matter is that having that cell phone pressed to your ear, being in proximity to WiFi routers, using cordless home phones, etc. is FAR, FAR, FAR worse than being near the antennas. The SMART approach would be for the municipality to reach out to companies like MetroPCS and try to work on finding suitable locations with them BEFORE they have leases signed and have invested considerable money. Then again, seeing the other problems our villages are experiencing, I doubt this will be done......
voodoopoliks March 30, 2011 at 07:49 PM
I have heard that some of the cell towers are hidden in church steeples. Most everyone I know around here looses the connection at higher elevations re: Pocantico Hills and to some extent lower elevations. Pocantico Hills area having a high elevation should be considered.
michael March 31, 2011 at 06:35 PM
to respond to sleepyboy , 1 agree using the cell phone is far more dangerous than an antenna on the roof is for a passer by BUT think twice about the people living in the building where the antenna are placed ??? maybe you are 10 or 20 feet away of a device transmitting 24 X 7 365 days a year !! you got a real dose of RF .... believe me !! I know it . they can be concerned , but the village want the money ! and people voted for them not long ago , so they get what they want !
ASleepyBoy April 13, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Michael, while I fully understand why someone would feel concerned, I urge everyone to look at the follow websites to read up on this a little more. That being said, I would probably feel the same way despite what studies have shown. http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/factsheets/cellphone_facts.pdf http://www.who.int/peh-emf/research/rf03/en/ http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cellphones http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/HomeBusinessandEntertainment/CellPhones/default.htm http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/docs/cell-phone-fact-sheet.pdf

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