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Maspeth cell antenna stirs calls to reform BSA

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After the Board of Standards& Appeals’ approval of a 13−foot cell phone tower on the roof of a Maspeth house last month, members of the Juniper Park Civic Association and City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) called for change at the city agency.

The civic and the councilman held a rally Monday outside the BSA’s Manhattan office, accusing the board of ignoring the neighborhoods it is charged to represent.

“When is the BSA going to respond to the community it’s supposed to be representi­ng?” said Avella, who has sponsored several bills that would reform the BSA. “You now have a huge precedent that the city has allowed a cell phone tower on top of a two−family house. It’s bad enough they’ve been putting it on top of apartment buildings and industrial buildings.”

The BSA’s five commissioners deliver the ultimate ruling on proposed projects that do not conform to the zoning of an area after advisory opinions from community boards and borough presidents.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, which includes Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, also warned the cell tower decision could set a precedent.

“With more people using cell phones and more people using cell phones as their primary phone, it too easily gives credence to the argument that this is now a public utility comparable to regular phone service or electric or gas,” he said.

The BSA voted 4−0 in favor of the project, which originally included a 54−foot tower made to resemble a flagpole.

“There will be no detrimental effect on the privacy, quiet, light and air of the neighborho­od,” the board said in its ruling.

Juniper Park Civic members disagreed, claiming the radiation from cell phone antennas could be hazardous.

“The people in my community are very, very concerned,” said Juniper Park member Manny Caruana. “We were not allowed to present any health data to this board, and that alerted me to the fact that this board has no one on it that is capable of making a decision for the health of the community. None of them have the expertise.”

Avella touted his legislation that would affect the BSA, several bills over the last two years that have been bogged down in committee.

The bills call for Council oversight of the BSA; expanding the BSA to 13 members to include borough presidents, the public advocate and other representatives; requiring a two−thirds majority for approval of variances; and requiring one member of the board to be a financial analyst to scrutinize developers’ variance requests under the auspices of financial hardship.

“They’ll violate the zoning because the developer isn’t making a big enough profit,” Avella said. “But there’s no one on the board with the financial expertise to evaluate whether the developer is making a legitimate argument or not.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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