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."