As the community prepared for a fight, the case was adjourned once again
Many Village of Great Neck residents are extremely concerned about a proposed cell tower for which Verizon is hoping to secure a variance at 307 East Shore Rd. Opponents believe the tower would lower property values, be detrimental to residents’ health and start an avalanche as variances chip away at current zoning laws, opening the door for other businesses to turn the lovely residential area into commercial property—and the tower itself won’t offer any benefit to the community.
A flyer entitled “Stop Verizon Cell Tower at East Shore Road” has been distributed by concerned residents, along with lawn signs, encouraging neighbors to attend the second public hearing on the matter at the Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals meeting scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m. Ten days prior to the meeting, the agenda posted to the Village of Great Neck website indicated that the case was “adjourned at applicant’s request.”
According to Leslie O’Neil, secretary to the Zoning Board, “They requested an adjournment and it was granted. They didn’t rescind their application, but they’re asking for more time and they were granted it.”
Amato Law Group, PLLC, and Verizon have not responded to requests for information.
“Please attend and express your opposition and concerns,” the flyer began. It went on to explain that while Verizon Wireless has filed an application to install a cell phone tower in the Village of Great Neck, it will mainly be serving the Manhasset/Plandome area, which will have no direct benefit for Great Neck residents.
The flyer lists bullet point warnings, including “Immediate Risk of Depreciation of Real Estate Properties Value in Great Neck,” citing, “A recent survey by the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy found that 94 percent of home buyers are ‘less interested and would pay less’ for a property located near a cell tower and antenna” and “buyers would pay as much as 20 percent less for properties near a cell phone tower.”
The second bullet point warns, “Increased Radio Frequency Radiation in Highly Concentrated Residential Area with Potential Multiple Serious Health Risks and Concerns,” noting, “Findings from meta studies and legit researchers indicate significant health risks of cell phone tower radiation to people living nearby,” with elderly people and children most vulnerable.
The final bullet asserts, “Violation of the Village Zoning Building Code for Commercial Benefits,” which will “jeopardize the quality of life, health and property value of Great Neck homeowners.”
Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, agreed that the presence of cell towers offers many health concerns, citing numerous international studies that have been conducted throughout more than a decade. She said that in 2004, a German study, “The Influence of Being Physically Near to a Cell Phone Transmission Mast on the Incidence of Cancer,” concluded, “The risk of newly developing cancer was three times higher among those patients who had lived during the past 10 years within a distance of 400 meters from the cellular transmitter, in comparison to those who had lived further away.”
Wood referred to a 2003 study from doctors from the University of Valencia in Spain that noted “individuals [who] lived within 50 and 150 meters of the base station…experienced more headaches, sleep disturbances, irritability, difficulty concentrating, discomfort, dizziness, appetite loss and nausea.”
She brought up another study of physicians from the Department of Oncology at University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden, which said, “Health endpoints reported to be associated with [extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields] and/or [radiofrequency electromagnetic fields] include childhood leukemia, brain tumors, genotoxic effects, neurological effects, neurodegenerative diseases, immune system deregulation, allergic and inflammatory responses, breast cancer, miscarriage and some cardiovascular effects.”
Wood also mentioned a recent study on the biological effects of cell towers from the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, which reports a dramatic increase in instances of malignant brain and heart tumors in mice exposed to radiofrequency radiation was found and said, “These experimental studies provide sufficient evidence to call for the reevaluation of [the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s] conclusions regarding the carcinogenic potential of [radiofrequency radiation] in humans.”
The first hearing about the tower was held on July 12. Residents have been circulating a copy of a letter dated June 22 that only a select few, living closest to the proposed tower, received from the Incorporated Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals, notifying them of that first meeting—and are outraged that the majority of the community was not alerted. They feel that it was very secretive and sneaky.
“Village residents said that they never received any notifications and asked the board why didn’t they receive any notifications. The board said that the information was online,” said Jing Wang, who lives .8 miles from the proposed tower. “I went to the first hearing and listened to long statements from the attorney. The whole thing started years ago and no one knew. Even if I don’t have a good signal near my house, I don’t want a cell phone tower near where we live.”
During the first meeting, an attorney, an architect, an engineer and a real estate analyst discussed the impact of the proposed tower.
“The technical person said that the power was lower than a microwave in your house,” noted Wang, who is concerned about the health of her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old twin girls. “How could that be possible—that it could have the same power?”
The Great Neck Chinese Association has been publishing information about the matter through digital weekly newsletters throughout the summer and the Chinese community has been actively discussing the proposal via the Allenwood WeChat group.
Wang, one of around 300 people active on the Allenwood area WeChat group, which is primarily conducted in Chinese, said that residents formed an informal committee to stop the tower.
“One of my neighbors said, ‘If the tower is built, I will move,’” noted Wang. “Nobody wants to live near it and be exposed 24/7. The residents need to come out and share their voices. They can not just decide without listening to the majority of the residents in the area. We want the public voice to be heard by the board before they make any decision.”
The second meeting was originally on the Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals agenda for Thursday, Aug. 2, but was adjourned until Oct. 4.
The proposal is listed as Case No. 2490: 307 East Shore Rd., also known as Section 2, Block 348, Lot(s) 64 and 65 on the Nassau County Land and Tax Map, located in the Mixed Use Zoning District.
Eric Helman, of the Amato Law Group, representing Verizon, is seeking the following variance(s) from the Village Zoning Code in connection with the roofmounted public utility wireless communication facility application, §575-119 D: The maximum permitted building height is 31 feet or three stories. The proposed building height is 51.25 feet and four stories. Variances of 20.25 feet and one story are required.
Evelyn Huang, a new mom who moved to the area a couple of years ago, learned a lot from the experts who spoke at the first meeting and is against the proposal.
“The tower is a violation to the current zoning code,” she explained. “We love our community and we need to protect it and the residents. If they pass these variances, which are really violations, it’s going to affect our village a lot. It will bring more zoning violations as other businesses ask the village for more and more violations. Now, it’s a very nice residential area, but it will become more commercial. And, it will not benefit us; it will benefit Plandome and Manhasset. They confirmed that at the first meeting. Plus, there’s no data to show that this is safe.”
Diana Raines Shapiro couldn’t agree more. “I am from a third-generation family in Great Neck and am extremely concerned about Verizon Wireless’s request to the Village of Great Neck to build a cell tower on East Shore Road,” she said. “Not only would this be an eyesore, but would depreciate the value of our homes, be a health hazard and, as the service area would be for Plandome, would have no benefit to the Great Neck Community.”