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Gianaris concerned over cellphone tower proliferation in boro

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Gianaris joined City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Brooklyn), members of the Astoria Neighborhood Council and residents from Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn at the steps of City Hall last Thursday to voice their concern about the number of cell phone towers in the city.Gianaris said he is especially concerned about towers being placed near schools and apartment buildings with an overabundance of antennas on the roof. He said he knows of one Queens apartment building that has 27 cell phone antennas on the roof."Unregulated and recklessly placed cell phone towers are multiplying across New York City in places where they are not needed," he said. "Residents have no choice about these towers being placed over their homes or across from their child's school, causing unknown harm."Gianaris has authored legislation to regulate cell tower placement. He said health effects stemming from the towers are not completely clear, but concerned residents worry that radiation from the towers could be linked to cancer and other illnesses.Vallone said the city does not keep track of the number of towers that are erected in the five boroughs. He said sidewalk tables for restaurants, for example, require permits, but cell phone towers do not, due to a 1998 decision by Richard Visconti, then deputy commissioner of buildings, who argued that cell phone towers were not considered communications equipment."The irresponsible placement of cell phone towers is reaching epidemic proportions," Vallone said. "They are being placed across the street from schools and on schools. We are being told cell phone towers are safe, and I hope they are, but we don't know yet. We can't use our kids as guinea pigs."Gianaris' legislation is calling for an antenna ban within 500 feet of city schools, a four-month moratorium on cell phone siting, a state Department of Health study on the long-term effects of cell phone tower signals and public hearings to give residents an opportunity to be heard.Evie Hantzopoulos, founder of Astoria Neighborhood Council, said cell phone companies and the Federal Communications Commission are not properly studying the effects of towers on residents. She said studies should be done not only on people in close proximity to towers, but also people who have been exposed for several years from further distances."For us, what is very troubling is when we talk to the FCC, our concerns are being dismissed," she said, referring to the Federal Communications Commission.Gianaris said he realizes the importance of cell phones to a large percentage of city residents, but he thinks the placement of cell towers should be handled more responsibly."We are not against cell phone towers and antennas, but we want them away from our schools," he said. "Until we can determine the health risks associated with cellular antennae, we need to regulate how and where they are sited."Reach reporter Nathan Duke by email at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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