Tensions over pending antennas boil over at Roslyn Estates Board of Trustees meeting

Tensions over pending antennas boil over at Roslyn Estates Board of Trustees meeting
Board members speak with a resident at the Roslyn Estates Village Hall. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Tensions came to a boiling point at a Roslyn Estates board of trustees meeting Monday during public discussion about the proposed installation of additional cell antennas by Dish Wireless on top of a building at 1044 Northern Blvd.

At its most tense, board members and residents yelled and pointed their fingers at one another. Yet the end of the meeting took an idealistic turn, with one resident declaring the importance of working together as neighbors and friends.

Roslyn Estates residents have been arguing against the new cellular antennas for months.

Dish Wireless cellphone service is proposing to install wireless communications equipment on top of the building at 1044 Northern Blvd., which already houses cellphone antennas for three other cellphone service providers.

Dish is proposing three sets of two antennas, with two located on the northeast corner of the building and one on the southeast.

Dish Wireless has modified its plans since the initial public hearing in November to address residential complaints, according to Daniel Patrick, the attorney representing Dish. The new plans include moving equipment to make it less visible from the south side of the building, where residential homes are located, Patrick said at a meeting on Jan. 22.

Patrick said Dish tends to seek out existing facilities as locations for their own telecommunications equipment. Patrick also assured residents that the equipment will not extend the height of the building.

At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Paul Leone Peters re-opened a public hearing on the antennas that had been adjourned. Peters implored residents to speak up only if they had new information to share.

Chris Prior, the village attorney, said the board had received no new material from the counsel for the neighbors or from Dish Wireless.

Jacob Turner, a supervising attorney at Heilig Branigran representing a number of Roslyn Estates residents, questioned the board’s authority.

“This board lacks jurisdiction to approve this [new equipment] on that building,” said Turner.

“The telecommunications article in the zoning code expressly authorizes the installation of this kind of equipment on a building like this,” replied Prior. “The trustees have that authority.”

Turner and Prior bounced back and forth on the legality of the proposed antennas.

Turner argued that the zoning code states that no structures or devices except for stairwells or elevators can project more than two feet above the roof. Prior responded that there are exceptions to that mentioned earlier in the code.

Turner threatened board members with a possible lawsuit.

“I am certain if the board denies this, they [Dish Wireless] will sue. If the board approves this, we will [sue] as well,” said Turner. “Either way there will be litigation for this, so each one of the board members must decide. Where do you wanna be on that?”

Peters made a motion to close the public hearing and asked Prior to draw up a draft decision to be voted on during a meeting on March 18. Peters confirmed to Prior that the sense is that the decision will be to approve the request.

But instead of that being the end of the conversation, residents circled back to the antennas just 10 minutes later.

Michelle Bounaix who lives within 75 feet of the facility and says she has done extensive research on antenna emissions.

“I bet you I know more about what’s up on that building than anyone here in the village does,” said Bounaix.

Currently, radiation emissions in Roslyn Estates are at 58.8%, according to Dish. “That’s the maximum!” Bounaix said, questioning why her neighborhood’s radiation emissions are closer to the maximum percentage allowed compared to other neighborhoods.

The addition of the new antennas is expected to cause a 1% increase, according to Dish, which is still within the threshold of safety set by the Federal Communications Commission.

“It’s still under the permissible amount, but … there’s something that needs to be looked into,” said Bounaix.

Trustee Susan Rubinstein questioned if residents would be so concerned about the current emissions rate or even aware of it had Dish Wireless not proposed the additional antennas.

Heated side conversations took place between board members and community members. At one point, six people in the room spoke at once.

“It’s become an us versus them,” said Bounaix. She shared her hopes that the community will band together in the future, calling out the board members’ “defensive” behavior.

Sandy Siff, a resident of Roslyn Estates since 1970 and former Roslyn Estates board trustee, empathized with board members. “We’re trying to say, ‘Hey, let’s work together,’ [but] you’re being threatened with a lawsuit!” said Siff. Siff said it makes sense why board members would act defensive.

But board Trustee Brett Auerbach disagreed.

Auerbach said he thinks the board members have done their due diligence and have nothing to defend.

“The pay is not great,” Auerbach joked. “I do [this job] because I really love Roslyn Estates and I really care,” he said. “All we do is govern for our residents.”

The final decision is set to be voted on during a meeting on March 18.

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