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Queens Chronicle

Laurelton standing tall against tower

Residents question Verizon about application for structure on Merrick

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Thu Jun 19, 2014.

Laurelton residents who attended a meeting last week seeking answers about a proposed 58-foot cell tower last week will have to wait just a little longer.

Verizon has applied to the city for a variance to allow the tower at 229-17 to 229-27 Merrick Boulevard.

More than 50 residents attended a hearing by the Land Use Committee of Community Board 13, which is reviewing Verizon’s application before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

The Department of Buildings already has denied the proposal, according to CB 13 Land Use Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht.

Verizon stated in its application that the tower is needed to close gaps in its coverage in Southeast Queens.

The public benefit would include better service for residents and people traveling through the area. The tower also would allow for enhanced 911 service.

It would be located to the rear of the property, and its generator and other supporting equipment placed atop an existing building on the site.

Several residents were upset that an attorney representing Verizon was there only to take questions and forward them to company officials.

But CB 13 District Manager Lawrence McClean said the intent of the meeting was to give Verizon officials an opportunity to address all stated concerns at the board’s meeting scheduled for June 23.

Resident Donald Clarke cut right to the heart of the application, asking for evidence of service interruptions.

“You are assuming there is a void to be filled,” Clarke said. “Where is the void?”

Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) would like to know the answer to that as well. He said that right now, cellular and mobile phone service in the region appears to be good.

“I’ve had Verizon phones for years and never had a dropped call,” he said. “And I live in an apartment building, where service is supposed to be worse.”

A random check both inside and outside of the Chi Eta Phi Sorority building, which hosted the meeting, turned up two service bars out of a possible five on an AT&T phone.

Richards, Democratic District Leader Elmer Blackburn and Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton civic association, were among those recommending that residents could, if necessary, send a message by canceling Verizon contracts for phone and internet services.

“We are not going to lay down,” Johnson said.

On an official level, Richards said the tower would be unsightly. Wearing his hat as the Council’s Environmental Committee Chairman, he expressed concern about numerous — though hotly contested — studies saying that cell towers are a danger to public health in surrounding areas.

“I’m concerned even about long-term, unanticipated problems,” he said.

The company said it will present documentation on June 23 certifying that the project will comply with all federal health impact regulations.

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