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Middle Village flagpole will mask cell tower: City

The city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications has proposed locating a cell phone tower disguised as a flag pole on Mt. Olivet Crescent in Middle Village to improve high speed services for the city's emergency responders.

Brian Snodgrass, the city DOITT executive director, laid out plans for the cell tower at Community Board 5's monthly meeting May 14. He said the tower, which would be at 61-40 Mt. Olivet Crescent in Middle Village, would aid city Police and Fire department workers in responding to emergencies.

"It will make them more efficient during their work in the field," he said. "It's a high-speed wireless network — very different from the radios firefighters and police carry on their hips."

Snodgrass said the 90-foot tower would provide emergency responders with high-speed Internet connections and give them instant access on their laptops to blueprints, mug shots, maps and building plans. He said the tower would not be used at all for cell phone reception.

David Collins, of the consultant Pinnacle Telecom Group, said the tower would operate close to microwave levels, but that it did not pose any health threats to residents.

"This is an extremely low power system," he said. "It is the size of energy used to light up your dashboard. We are 20,000 times lower than the [safety] standard."

CB 5 rejected a plan earlier this year to locate a similar tower in Maspeth, but that proposal was aimed at improving cellular phone service.

CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the new proposal was preferable to the Maspeth tower because it would aid emergency responders and would not be located in a residential neighborhood.

"I think people are looking at this as necessary for the city's wireless network system and that it's for the greater good," he said.

But board member Robert Holden said the tower was still a matter of concern.

"I'm concerned because I don't believe it's harmless and I don't think they fully understand the long term effects of radio waves," he said. "You have to err on the side of caution when you're talking about people's health."

The board voted 36-0 against a plan earlier this year to locate a cell phone tower, which would have served as a flag pole, atop a home at 53-20 72nd Place, in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Residents pleaded with the city's Board of Standards and Appeals in January not to allow Omnipoint Communications to construct the tower in their community.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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