Next Generation Wireless Antenna Network Generates Static
City Council member Christopher Marte is joining a chorus of demands that the City offer more notice and greater consultation to communities before installing fifth generation cellular phone towers on public streets. The towers, which are each as tall as a three-story building, transmit more robust signals for mobile phones and allow larger numbers of digital devices to send and receive information faster.
In recent days, multiple Manhattan community boards (representing the Lower East Side, the Upper East Side, and Washington Heights) have enacted resolutions demanding that the City’s Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) halt installation of new 5G towers, until a procedure can be established to notify neighborhoods, and address any concerns.
“When the City wants to put anything on a public street,” Mr. Marte said at a Wednesday rally on the Lower East Side, “there is a process that allows the local community board to have a say. But that process isn’t happening with 5G towers.” He cited, among the complaints raised by residents, that the new towers can impede handicapped access on sidewalks, hamper pedestrian flows (and thus harm small retail businesses adjacent to the structures), and hinder trash collection. In other cases, residents of second- and third-floor apartments have lamented that their views from their windows have been eclipsed by the new towers.
Mr. Marte additionally noted that the OTI has justified the siting of 5G towers as occupying public space once taken up by pay telephones. “But that is technology developed over a century ago,” he argued, “and why do we assume that the same locations are right for these new devices?”
He further evinced skepticism about the City’s relationship with the private-sector firm behind the 5G structures. LinkNYC is a consortium of technology companies, which rents out the bandwidth created by the towers to various cellular providers, and then shares that revenue with the City. LinkNYC also earns money by posting advertising on the sides of its antenna kiosks. “Why are so many of these being installed in Soho and the West Village, where there is no shortage of connectivity?” he asked. “The City should be building 5G towers in neighborhoods that suffer from the digital divide, not communities where the advertising revenue is most lucrative.”
Also voicing reservations about the City’s rollout of the new digital connectivity architecture is Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who said in a January 16 letter to OTI that, “the design [of] the 5G towers and infrastructure have been a source of frustration for many residents. These structures create considerable bulk on sidewalks and can negatively impact the visual appeal or even historic character of our neighborhoods. It is important that the city works with service providers to ensure that the placement and design of 5G infrastructure is carefully considered and sensitive to the aesthetic, historic, and public space concerns of the community.”