Councilmen advise co-op on antennas

By Howard Koplowitz

City Councilmen James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Vallone's brother Paul Vallone visited North Shore Towers last week to advise the co-op on how to deal with its rooftop lease for antennas.

Residents of the Floral Park co-op are concerned that the some 250 antennas may be emitting radiation at more than allowable levels regulated by the federal government, according to Herb Cooper, a member of the towers' board of directors who is handling the antenna issue.

Cooper said North Shore Towers leased its rooftop space 20 years ago to Continental Communications, the company that is installing the antennas. The city permit for the antennas, renewed in 2001, is up for renewal again with Continental Communications, which is asking for a 10-year extension. The lease between the co-op and Continental Communications runs for 99 years.

Gennaro said the co-op should get together and decide whether it wants to live with the lease, get out of it or expand it to include other types of antenna uses to make more money off the lease.

He cautioned that the health effects from antennas are uncertain.

"We don't really know with great finality what those could potentially do to people," he said.

Cooper claimed that the 250 or so antennas are more than the permit allows. The permit only calls for radio and television antennas, Cooper said.

"We believe that there are various radio towers but relatively few TV towers," he said, noting that there are other types of antennas on the roof.

"Some of these could be potential sources of excess radiation," he said.

Cooper, however, said an unannounced Federal Communications Commission visit to the towers March 13 found no excess radiation. He said a November 2003 test also found safe radiation levels.

He said the board is expected to hire an engineer in the next few days to inspect the roof, take an inventory of the types of antennas there and measure radiation.

"We do not know exactly what antennas are presently on the roof," he said.

Cooper said the co-op board gave financial approval to hire the engineer and noted that a report would be made available to Community Board 13 and the city Board of Standards and Appeals.

The BSA is expected to hold a hearing on the antennas Aug. 21, but Cooper said the report most likely will not be available by then.

Paul Vallone, who successfully pressured St. Mel's Church in Flushing to remove cell phone antennas from its roof after taking his daughter out of the parish school, urged the co-op to be similarly vocal in its opposition to the antennas at the towers.

Under the Federal Telecommunications Act, a fight cannot be waged against antennas by arguing that they pose potential health risks, but Vallone said the co-op may find that the roof's construction is not suited for them or that the antennas go against the building's fire code.

"There's lots of ways to attack it," he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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