By Gary Buiso
A controversial cellular phone pole in Marine Park is “well suited for the neighborhood,” providing better service for local customers, a T-Mobile executive said this week. Russ Stromberg, T-Mobile’s senior manager of development, told this paper that the tower, which stands on a rooftop at 3524 Avenue S, is no different than the telephone poles whose wires connect directly to people’s homes. It’s just that cell tower technology is still relatively new, he said. “We get used to what we live with,” he said. Work began on the tower on Dec. 17, but was quickly stopped after residents complained of hazardous working conditions at the two-story building. A stop work order issued by the city was still in effect as of Jan. 10, according to Jennifer Givner, a Department of Buildings spokesperson. Residents are not convinced the tower is safe, and refuse to be “guinea pigs,” as one East 36th resident put it, while long term epidemiological studies are carried out. With that in mind, residents contacted local elected officials like Rep. Anthony Weiner and state Senator Martin Golden, whose general counsel, John D’Emic, agreed to volunteer his time and work with building owner Hwang Woo Park—who was, according to a Golden spokesperson was looking to find a way to escape the already-signed contract. D’Emic said this week that his investigation into the matter is still in the “preliminary” stages of exploration, but that it might be possible to attack the contract. Meanwhile Stromberg said that neither T-Mobile nor Park, who was unavailable for comment, wishes to get out of their contractual obligations. There is “full support by both parties,” Stromberg said. Stromberg said T-Mobile approached Park about the possibility of leasing out the space on his rooftop. “No one is trying to break the contract,” he added. Stromberg said T-Mobile decided upon Marine Park as a location based on consumer demand. “There are a high level of calls in the neighborhood,” he said. In the past 90 days, 5,000 T-Mobile only calls were placed in the Marine Park area, Stromberg said. The problem, he said, is that there is a “hole in our coverage” in Marine Park, leading to lost calls, and dissatisfied consumers. “We are becoming an essential public utility,” Stromberg said. In order to provide service inside people’s homes—and keep customers happy and subscribed to T-Mobile—more towers must be erected. As for health concerns, Stromberg said there is “a lot of misinformation applied to cell sites.” “New Yorkers live in an ocean of radio frequency,” he said. He pointed to a World Health Organization fact sheet that downplays the risk between electromagnetic field sources, like cell phones or their base stations, and a condition known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Stromberg said the kind of radio waves emitted by the towers just don’t have “enough energy to cause damage at the genetic level.” Further, he referred to the American Cancer Society, whose position is that while there is not yet enough information on the health effects, there appears to be, “theoretical reasons why cell towers would not be expected to increase cancer risk, and animal studies of radio frequency have not suggested a risk of cancer.” Greg Borruso, the president of the Marine Park Civic Association, said a meeting between his group and T-Mobile representatives could be forthcoming, something Stromberg confirmed. Despite assertions that the tower is safe, Borruso has said there a sense of distrust persists. “Years ago, the cigarette companies said [their product] was okay for you,” he recently said. The group’s next meeting is on Jan. 17 at Public School 207, 4011 Fillmore Avenue, at 8 p.m.