People power as residents prevail in cell tower ban in Hempstead

Concerned citizens were instrumental in the passing of a new law prohibiting wireless companies from building cell towers or antennas within 1,500 feet of homes, day care centers, schools, and houses of worship by the Town of Hempstead.

Despite the 1996 federal law that bans towns from restricting the assembly of cell towers due to health reasons, officials say the new law was implemented due to a “quality of life issue.”

“If I was a parent, I would not want my children near cell phone towers. I believe there are various health risks at stake,” Thomas Archi, 50, of Roslyn Heights

The law will impact all planned cell phone tower productions in the town of Hempstead, including T-Mobile’s recently proposed cell tower installation located at the North Merrick Library. Cell phone companies are claiming the laws are too drastic and that the law bans new construction as a whole.

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, so where exactly can a tower be built?”

The fight against the antennas began a year ago when one morning a group of North Merrick residents woke up to find new cell antennas on top of telephone poles next to their homes.

“The town never let anyone know about this even though they were in talks with NextG for over a year,” said Borecky.

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

NextG is the company that makes the equipment to put on the poles, and leases it to MetroPCS.  Calls and emails to MetroPCS were not returned.

Not everyone is pleased with the ordinance due to a rising demand for wireless coverage due to the increased use of cell phones, laptops and tablet computers.

Neil Yeoman of the South Merrick Community Civic Association thinks that “a lot depends on how soon the [wireless] service deteriorates to unacceptable levels.”

“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.

Cell phone companies will need to provide reasonable grounds for why it is essential to build a tower in a specific area.

Jeanie Coster, a Stewart Manor resident doesn’t want to see that happen.  “There should be no way around the law.  There is no dire need to have cancer causing towers surrounding our homes.”

For now, Borecky is content with the town’s ruling.

“At least this can never happen again,” she said.