By Phil Corso
The reception might be good near the intersection of 150th Street and Willets Point Boulevard in Whitestone, but state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said his calls haven’t been answered yet.
The senator gathered with area residents Friday to protest what he called the poster child for the unwarranted expansion of the cell phone industry outside a real estate office, at 24-12 150th St., riddled with more than 20 cell phone towers and a large generator.
“The amount of antennas on this building presents a handful of dilemmas for the entire community,” Avella said. “The sheer number of these towers alone beg the question of whether the building can even sustain the weight of the multiple towers.”
Avella said he reached out to the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications as well as the city Department of Buildings to no avail, asking them for an analysis on the number of radiation-linked illnesses in the last decade in that area.
The DOB returned his calls with what he called an incomprehensible response, only recognizing that each individual permit was valid.
Aside from the aesthetic disadvantages Avella had mentioned, the senator also said area residents were concerned about a potential health risk in living so close to the towers.
“Residents in the area have noticed an increase in cancer cases and other radiation-linked illnesses over the past 10 years that they believe are linked to the cell phone towers,” Avella said.
Rosario DiMarco has lived in the surrounding neighborhood for nearly 12 years and said his worries went one step further.
Dimarco said residents in the area also worry that the radiation emitted from the cell phone towers might contaminate produce at the Strawberry Farms supermarket across the street.
“Luckily, I haven’t experienced any health issues yet,” Dimarco said. “For the long term, these towers need to be removed.”
It was the second rally of its sort at the location as Avella said he and his office have tried to find out which cell phone corporation was behind the towers. The name, however, has not been made public.
Joan Ubertini, of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers and Civic Association, said she was personally invested in the removal of the towers alongside her neighbors.
“I’m a mother and a grandmother and my concern is with the health risks this might pose,” Ubertini said. “I support Sen. Avella’s attempts to look into this issue.”
To address the issue, Avella said he introduced legislation in the Senate that would require proof of compliance with city laws to ensure that each antenna installed is within federal electromagnetic frequency emission guidelines.
Local municipalities are restricted from interfering with the expansion of the cell phone industry, Avella said. They are also unable to use health concerns as a means to restrict the placement of towers.
“Our hands are tied behind our backs,” Avella said.
The biggest question, Avella said, was whether or not the city looked at the aggregate number of cell phone towers on a building or to the amount of radiation they might give off in a concentrated region.
“The wireless industry has been setting up antennas and towers faster than we are rushing out to grab the latest cell phone or handheld gadget,” Avella said. “What we are choosing to ignore is the health risk that we may be facing in living so close to these towers.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.