Community Board 6 discusses pedestrian safety at Austin Street, potential installation of 5G towers during monthly meeting

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In Wednesday’s Community Board 6 meeting, members were commended for asking the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to look into the potential dangers to pedestrians at Austin Street. Residents also expressed concerns about the long-term effects of 5G towers should they be installed in the area.

The request for DOT to study the traffic on Austin Street came in response to initial concerns expressed by the community. An online petition was launched by Neighbors for a Safer Austin Street and CB 6 member Pedro Rodriguez last September, asking for the street to be pedestrianized.

As of March 9, it received 441 signatures, with a goal of 500. On Feb. 23, the board voted unanimously in favor of requesting that DOT conduct a safety study to increase pedestrian-friendly space and quality of life there.

Some of the requests made by the DOT in their resolution were for wider sidewalks; eliminating car congestion and honking, creating outdoor seating areas; allowing more businesses to have outdoor seating; creating safe crossings for pedestrians, and looking into fully pedestrianizing segments of the street.

Rodriguez was on hand at Wednesday’s meeting, expressing his gratitude to the board for taking action based on vast community input.

“I’m looking forward to the DOT finding solutions to make Austin Street a safer place for families and the residents here today,” Rodriguez said.

On top of that, residents wanted to speak to the board about 5G towers potentially being set up in the community. Many said these towers would be an eyesore and worry about the long-term health problems for those in the area.

Some residents also expressed frustration over the fact that they didn’t get to voice whether they would favor these towers being put up in the area. According to CB 6 Chair Heather Beers-Dimitriadis, there have been several other installations of 4G and 5G towers, with the board never being asked to weigh in on the matter before.

What makes the latest installation of a tower different is that it was brought to their attention as part of a new initiative by the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) to work more collaboratively with communities.

Beers-Dimitriadis said that the initial proposal from OTI was for two sites in the community, one at P.S. 101 and another at P.S. 144. The community board told OTI that a tower could not be put up at P.S. 101 due to the private streets. Once it was determined that it was private property, that location was removed from the list, leaving just one tower to be put up.

“I want you to understand that it was never multiple installations,” Beers-Dimitriadis said. “We have a map that OTI provided us. There has been no lack of transparency in information. It maps out every installation to date.”

OTI also told the board that there aren’t any plans for future installations in the district. Beers-Dimitriadis noted that the board acts only in an advisory capacity; it is up to OTI to do as they see fit.

While the board doesn’t have the power to stop the installation of a tower, they did submit a request that if constructed, it be done on the commercial area of Yellowstone Boulevard, between Juno Street and Ingram Street. They felt this location would have less of an impact on the residential community and a local elementary school.