Roslyn Estates board approves cell antenna proposal, residents threaten lawsuit

Roslyn Estates board approves cell antenna proposal, residents threaten lawsuit
Trustees Stephen Fox and Brian Feingold were swore in to serve another two-year term each Monday night. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Roslyn Estates board members approved a much-debated proposal from Dish Wireless to install equipment on top of the building at 1044 Northern Blvd., approved a 2024-2025 budget that is down from last year and swore in re-elected trustees Brian Feingold and Stephen Fox at a meeting Monday night.

The Roslyn Estates board greenlighted the contentious Dish Wireless proposal during a somewhat anticlimactic meeting. Village residents and their lawyers filled up every seat in the room, but stalked out in a line once the decision was made about two minutes into the meeting.

Although the building at 1044 Northern Blvd. already houses cellphone antennas for three other cellphone service providers, residents have argued against the proposed new cellular antennas for months, citing radiation concerns and aesthetic issues.

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

Andrew Campanelli, a lawyer representing a group of Roslyn Estates residents, claimed the facilities at the site are non-FCC compliant in a letter sent to Mayor Paul Leone Peters in March.

With the addition of the fourth carrier atop the building, Dish estimates that the radiation emissions from the facility will increase from 58.8% to 59.8%, a 1% increase. This increase is minimal and still within the threshold of safety as determined by the FCC, according to Daniel Patrick, the attorney representing Dish.

Dish Wireless has modified its plans since the initial public hearing in November to address residential complaints, Patrick said. 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 in January.

Board members have repeatedly said their hands are tied when it comes to this issue and they have no reason to reject the plans from Dish since the plans abide by FCC regulations.

Jacob Turner, a supervising attorney at Heilig Branigan who also represents Roslyn Estates residents, threatened board members with a lawsuit at a meeting in February and implied they are facing a lose-lose situation.

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

If residents sue the village or Dish sues the village for preventing the proposal, it is unclear how the village would fund the necessary legal expenses.

For Herricks district residents, for example, lawsuits against the district will likely lead to a rise in taxes. Herricks district board members, facing costs from 21 child sex abuse claims, adopted a budget April 4 with a 5.2% budget-to-budget increase and a 2.38% tax levy increase to increase costs allocated toward pending claims and legal fees.

Rosanna Wolff, a Roslyn Estates resident, said the neighbors are “absolutely” planning to file a lawsuit. Residents’ biggest gripe with the cell antenna decision is that they believe the antennas already located on top of the building are emitting harmful radiation and additional  antennas will only worsen this radiation, Wolff said.

Wolff said nearby Flower Hill board members rejected a similar proposal, a move she wishes the Roslyn Estates board would consider.

The Flower Hill board did deny a wireless communication provider application, though it was for small cell nodes, not large cell antennas. And the wireless communication company then sued the village board.

The Flower Hill board denied an application by ExteNet to install 18 cell nodes in the village in September 2019. These cell nodes would be small installations throughout the community, not large cell antennas atop a building like the proposal in Roslyn Estates.

The Flower Hill board said its decision was due to the wireless infrastructure provider’s failure to specify the exact location of the proposed cell nodes despite village requests.

ExteNet then sued the board in October 2019, spurring a nearly three-yearlong legal battle.

Judge Frederic Block of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in July 2022 that the village had acted within its powers under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. ExteNet filed an appeal in August but later withdrew it. The case was terminated in October 2022.

While Wolff said the residents are pursuing a lawsuit, she could not specify if the lawsuit would be against the FCC or the Roslyn Estates board.

She said Roslyn Estates board members could prevent an incoming lawsuit by stopping the Dish Wireless work order and reopening the public hearing. Wolff said she is amazed at the lack of empathy from board members and wishes the trustees and residents could work together.

Wolff and other residents expressed disdain and were vocal in a Roslyn Estates WhatsApp group after the meeting.

After the board approved the Dish proposal, board members passed a 2024-2025 budget at the meeting Monday night.

The approved 2024-2025 budget is $1,950,243.76, which is down by 0.39% or $7,586.60 from the 2023-2024 budget of $1,957,830.36.

The 2024-2025 budget has a tax levy of $1,280,215.41, which represents a tax levy increase of 0.27% from the 2023-2024 tax levy of $1,276,792.09. The village tax rate will remain stagnant for residents.

The mayor and village attorney swore in trustees Feingold and Fox, who were each re-elected to the board for another two-year term after both ran unopposed for their positions.

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