Monday, March 24, 2008


Some kids in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn took to the streets the other day to tell Verizon to take their microwaves elsewhere.

The kids parents are with them.

Who can blame them. Cell towers in the area have grown from 4 towers to more than 8 since January and currently face directly into classrooms and a refurbished rooftop play area.

Although the area beat back Sprint a while back when they were looking to add to the microwave melange the area faces, this time it is likely to be more difficult because of the fact the equipment is already installed, lessening the likelihood anything will be removed.

Calls from concerned parents flooded the local community board only hours after the towers were erected.

"They installed them when no one was around in hopes of falling under the radar," said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann of the towers, which appeared on the rooftops at 8701 Ridge Blvd. "Within hours, my phone was ringing off the hook with angry parents afraid that radiation . . . was going to give their kids cancer."

Vorizon has said they might be able to angle the towers differently. But this is not enough for the folks in the neighborhood. Parents Maryann Kotsis and Dolores Lozupone, for example, maintain that given the saturation of this equipment in relation to the density of schools and childcare facilities in it's vicinity - anything less than full removal of the equipment and a moratorium on its construction will not suffice.

“This is new technology. When cigarettes first came out, doctors were on TV smoking them,” PS 185 parent Evans Kotsis told The Brooklyn Paper. “Now we know better.”

Kotsis, who has two children in the school, added, “We don’t want our kids to be guinea pigs in this.”

"I'm scared of what we don't know," said Elizabeth Juliano, whose 5-year-old son attends the school. "Without evidence either way, we should err on the side of caution. This is just stupid."

As usual the big company never bothered to talk to the neighborhood about their plans.

“There was no form of communication with either the parents or the principal,” said Tressa Kabbez, co-president of PS185’s Parent Teacher Association. “We’re going to go after Verizon. We’re mobilizing parents in the school.”

Though many scoff at the risk cell phone towers may create, the parent's are not without reason for their concerns.

Last April the Times of London for example reported clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses have been discovered around mobile phone masts, raising concerns over the technology’s potential impact on health. "Studies of the sites show high incidences of cancer, brain hemorrhages and high blood pressure within a radius of 400 yards of mobile phone masts."

Dr John Walker, a scientist who compiled the cluster studies with the help of local campaigners in Devon, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands (Great Britain), said he was convinced they showed a potential link between the angle of the beam of radiation emitted from the masts’ antennae and illnesses discovered in local populations.

“Masts should be moved away from... schools and the power turned down,” he said.

Some property owners in the neighborhood like the cell phone towers which are placed on their buildings. Owners of buildings typically net $2,000 a month in rent from cellphone companies.

The following is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Cell Phone Towers Would Be Banned Near Schools Under Bill
by Harold Egeln

BAY RIDGE -- "Take the towers down!" "I am not a lab rat!" "Verizon doesn't care!"

Those were the chants and placards of children and parents in Bay Ridge recently as more than 250 students, parents and supporters marched on a local Verizon Wireless store to protest the placement of cell phone towers atop an apartment building by P.S. 185.

The first answer to their call for the towers' removal was not from Verizon Wireless, which has not yet given a public statement to the protests, but by from Assembly-Member Janele Hyer-Spencer in Bay Ridge. She has just introduced legislation in Albany to help prevent such situations.

"Placing cell towers in such close vicinity of our children is unacceptable," said Assembly Member Hyer-Spencer (D-Bay Ridge/Staten Island East Shore). "While awaiting concrete evidence of potential health risks, we cannot sit idly by and gamble with the lives of hundreds of innocent students."

The legislation, known as bill A.10239, would prohibit placing cell towers, such as the ones about 100 feet from P.S. 185, within 500 feet of school buildings in the city. A further provision would require notification to municipalities, communities and parents of tower construction plans, and mandate local input in the placement of towers.

"With my legislation, parents can be sure that informed decisions will be made, and they will not put their children at risk for the sake of corporate profits," said Hyer-Spencer.

An array of cell phone receiving and transmitting antennae was installed early in January, without advance notice to the school nor the community, atop a six-story apartment building at 8701 Ridge Blvd., across 87th Street from P.S. 185.

Notification is currently not required by law, considered a matter of private property rights. The towers' placement immediately set off a storm of protest fueled by parents' fears on the unknown health consequences of being near electromagnetic microwave radiation.

There have been conflicting studies about the effects but no definite conclusion either way, that being a source of unease for segments of the public concerned about possible harmful effects. The cell phone towers consist of receiving and transmitting antennae, and according to local officials, the transmitters are of concern, not the receivers.

Brooklyn's Highest Cell Tower Concentration in Bay Ridge

The neighborhood has a high concentration of schools, with P.S. 185 at the center. Within a two-block radius of P.S. 185 are Holy Cross Parochial School and Adelphi Academy, and two day care centers, Stepping Stones and Tiny Tots.

Bay Ridge and the Manhattan's Upper West Side have the highest concentrations of cell phone towers in the entire city, due to advantageous geographical settings and long, broad avenues. Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights have over two dozen cell phone tower arrays, according to local officials.

Recently, noted Hyer-Spencer, the school renovated its rooftop playground for students. The playground is in a direct horizontal line across from the towers on the apartment building, and several parents won't allow their children to play there during recess.

After a recent PTA meeting at P.S. 185, where a compromise settlement with Verizon Wireless was announced by Council Member Vincent Gentile and state Senator Marty Golden to re-align the towers away from the school, parents rejected the compromise, sparking their protest march a week later. Both Gentile and Golden joined in the march to support the PTA's position.

Golden's office was informed that Verizon's policy is not to place their cell towers near schools, although the company went ahead anyway and installed the towers. He told protesters at the recent rally that Verizon was "at a loss" about how the towers were placed near the school.

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