Concerned about possible health implications, more than a dozen Whitestone residents gathered at the corner of 150th Street and Willets Point Boulevard Friday to protest the large number of cell phone antennas atop a two-story office building.
The protest was led by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who said the building at 24-12 150 St. may not be structurally strong enough to handle the weight of more than 20 cell phone antennas and a large generator. “Should so many be in a low-density area on a low-height building? What are the health impacts?” Avella asked.
Several nearby residents said they have seen an increase in cancer cases and fear for the children in the community. Rosario DeMarco, who lives around the corner from the towers, noted that there is a supermarket, Strawberry Farm, directly across the street. “Radiation may contaminate food at the supermarket,” DeMarco said. “There are a lot of small children in the area and they are more likely to be affected.”
Joan Ubertini of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, said her group supports Avella’s efforts because “no one knows” the health implications from cell phone antennas.
Many fear the unknown dangers that radiation emitted from the antennas might have on children as well as adults.
Laura Conti has lived in the neighborhood for 59 years and knows a lot of residents who have gotten cancer. “This situation with the antennas should never have happened,” Conti said. “I’m concerned about the future.”
Avella noted that the city can’t stop cell phone antennas based on health concerns because federal law prohibits communities from rejecting them on such grounds. Federal law says there is no conclusive evidence the transmissions harm people at the levels allowed by the Federal Communications Commission.
So the senator has introduced legislation that would require proof of compliance with city laws and rules that ensure each cellular antenna installed is operating within federal electromagnetic frequency emission guidelines. The bill would also require the Department of Buildings to consider the aggregate number of existing antennas and ones proposed for a property at the time a permit application is submitted.
“We need to take a step back and determine safe guidelines for cell phone towers in residential areas,” he said.
Avella has also reached out to the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to request a structural analysis be completed of the 150th Street building to see if it can support the weight of the equipment on the roof. In addition, he requested an analysis of the area be made by the Department of Health on the number of radiation-linked illnesses over the last decade in the area.
The senator said he has also tried to contact the building’s owner for a meeting, but has not been successful. The structure is owned by two corporations, Hat Leasing LLC and 24-12 Realty LLC. The Queens Chronicle was not able to reach any of the principles either.
But Avella said he and his constituents are not going away because the situation has only gotten worse over the last 10 years. “We need to rein this in,” he said.
Cell phone companies say studies done by the World Health Organization and the FCC indicate no adverse health effects from radio frequency signals produced by base stations and wireless networks.