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Cell Antennas Spark Spirited Debate in Greenburgh

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - A representative for a wireless networking company looking to install 20 antennas at various locations throughout Greenburgh accused town officials of violating the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 by stringing along the application for more than two years.

Peter Heimdahl, senior director of government relations for NextG Networks, maintained during the three-hour hearing/discussion at Town Hall that the town's wireless law should not even apply to NextG since the company is an infrastructure provider, not a service provider.

He also said NextG was being treated differently than other utility companies simply because of the wireless component of its antenna system and equipment that it wants to place along public rights-of-way using existing wooden utility poles. NextG's primary customer for the project is MetroPCS.

"It's very clear what your obligations are as elected representatives," said Mark Weingarten, attorney for NextG. "We attempted to be good corporate citizens wanting to do business here."

NextG provides technology for MetroPCS in White Plains, New Rochelle and Rye and is seeking special permits for antennas in unincorporated Greenburgh, including several in residential areas.

Garrett Goldberg said he moved his family from New York City to Edgemont three years ago to get away from cell antennas that were built outside his apartment.

"Once they are up it is next to impossible to get them down," he said. "Something doesn't seem right, especially since they don't want to do a test to prove that they don't cause cancer. Somebody has to take a stand and I think it's time that we do."

Edgemont resident Jim Hallowell said the application should be sent back to the town's Antenna Review Board, which signed off on the plans on what council member Francis Sheehan charged was "faulty data" submitted by NextG.

"There are ample locations in the Town of Greenburgh for these type of devices and the applicant must prove that adequate coverage can't be sited elsewhere," Hallowell said. "Our law has been on the books since the 1990s and I don't think anyone has challenged it as being unconstitutional."

Town Attorney Tim Lewis reminded residents and the board that NextG's application cannot be denied because of health concerns, although it was mentioned that at least 15 other countries have banned similar technology and fire stations no longer allow the devices on the roofs of their buildings.

"Let's be real, we're all worried about the health risks," Goldberg said.

The town board will likely discuss the application again at its Feb. 28 work session when it expects to receive the final report from its consultant HDR Architecture and Engineering, P.C. The town board's next regular voting meeting is March 14.

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