Long Islanders react to new antenna law

Cell phone towers like this would need to be at least 1,500 feet from homes under the new law.

Rashed Mian and Giavanna Peppe contributed reporting to this article.

The Town of Hempstead passed a law on Sept. 21 banning new cell phone towers within 1,500 feet of homes, day care centers, schools and houses of worship.

“I can understand that parents are concerned for their children’s health.  There shouldn’t be towers built near schools or even too close to homes for that matter,” said Elizabeth Cooney, 21, a photo major at Hofstra University.

As president of the North Merrick Community Association, Claudia Borecky has pushed for regulations in the Town of Hempstead.

Borecky says that the Town of Hempstead didn’t have a wireless communication code, until now.

“That’s why they were so bombarded with cell towers because they had nothing in place to prevent this from happening,” she said.

She says 35 cell antennas were put up in Merrick and 155 were built around the Town of Hempstead.

To get around the law, cell phone companies would to need to provide reasonable grounds for why it is essential to build a tower in a specific area.

But residents say there should be no way around the law.

“There is no dire need to have cancer-causing towers surrounding our homes,” says Stewart Manor resident Jeanie Coster, 45.

Cooney agrees. “Good cell phone reception isn’t as important as preventing cancer,” she says.

“Everything causes cancer,” said Stephen Paunvoski, 19, a film major at Hofstra.  “I’m not saying we should place cell phone towers everywhere but a couple more aren’t going to hurt.  If I can get better service, why not?”

“People don’t won’t these supposedly harmful towers but they will complain if they can’t good cell phone reception,” he said.  “You can’t have it both ways.”

Federal studies show there is no connection between health issues and cell phone towers.

Derek Costin, floor manager at the Verizon Wireless in Hempstead, said the restrictions aren’t fair.

“It doesn’t even make sense. There are homes, child care centers, schools, and churches on every street corner in Hempstead,” he said.  So where exactly can a tower be built?”

Even with such heavy opposition to the towers this doesn’t mean that existing cell antennas will be taken down.

Neil Yeoman of the South Merrick Community Civic Association said there are still people on both sides of the argument.

“There will be people at one of the extremes of the issue who will push for keeping these new regulations, or even making them tougher, and people at the other extreme who will push to make it a lot easier for the needed capacity to be installed,” he said via email.  “A lot depends on how soon the service deteriorates to unacceptable levels.”