Letters from Fishman and Berg: Village Should Hire an Independent Telecommunications Expert
- Monday, 27 February 2023 08:01
- Last Updated: Thursday, 02 March 2023 08:03
- Published: Monday, 27 February 2023 08:01
- Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1111
(This Letter to the Editor was written by Carrie Fishman)
To the Editor: It is incomprehensible that the Village Board of Trustees has not hired an independent telecommunications expert to assist it in understanding and analyzing the many technological issues involved in devising strategies for implementing a COMPREHENSIVE plan to deal with telecommunications coverage gaps in Scarsdale.
Instead, the Trustees, relying on Verizon’s word as opposed to evaluating the variables involved with its own expert, are advancing a plan to use the Police/Fire (“PF”) Headquarters as a cell tower site when that site was thoroughly considered and definitively rejected by the Village Trustees and the village government in the late 1990s.
In fact, under New York State’s SEQR environmental review law, Scarsdale acted as the lead agency in the late 90s for a proposed cell antennae site at PF Headquarters and concluded that there was the probability of substantial adverse environmental impact if the project went forward. Scarsdale formally notified the State and the proposed project was dropped.
Moreover, outside telecommunications experts submitted a report to the trustees in 1999 which provided substantive information that rebutted much of what cell carriers told the Trustees at the time. Much of what is in that report covers issues that are still in play today. I have resubmitted the report to the Trustees.
Little has changed in the ensuing years except that now the village wants to proceed with a site that it formally rejected pursuant to New York State environmental law when there are alternative sites and technologies that can take care of the coverage gaps. Other carriers have installed small repeaters, located on existing utility poles, along Route 22 and other state roads within Scarsdale.
The proposal presented last Tuesday evening would place a broadcasting cell tower in a topographically low lying, densely populated area and violate a section of the Village Code regarding cell tower setbacks. The house closest to the proposed tower is only 185 feet away.
The Village Trustees have a fiduciary duty to Scarsdale’s residents to hire an independent expert and thoroughly understand and assess data and question its own expert BEFORE negotiating with carriers, in order to achieve the goal of better cell service while also finding the best and least intrusive way to do so.
(This letter was written by Robert Berg)
Robert J. Berg
17 Black Birch Lane
Scarsdale, New York 10583
February 28, 2023
Hon. Mayor Jane Veron
Trustees of the Village Board of Scarsdale
Scarsdale Village Manager Robert Cole
Village Attorney Nicholas M. Ward-Willis
1001 Post Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
Re: Resolution Authorizing Entering into Lease Agreements with
Verizon Wireless for Colocation of Wireless Facilities at Village
Hall Roof (1001 Post Road) and at the Police and Fire Station
Property (50 Tompkins Road)
Dear Mayor, Trustees, Village Manager, and Village Attorney:
Tonight is your last opportunity to table the above-referenced Resolution and take the only responsible course of action consistent with your sworn duties to our residents, first responders, and Village staff. My daughter, Zoe, and I have repeatedly advised you of the substantial dangers to human health that come from locating wireless telecommunications facilities in close proximity to residential housing, schools, and occupied buildings such as Village Hall and the Public Safety Building. At the Village Board meeting on February 14, 2023, numerous members of the public likewise expressed their serious concerns about the health risks raised by the instant proposal to have Verizon Wireless install approximately 22 commercial wireless antennas at the 103-foot height level on the Public Safety Building monopole at 50 Tompkins Road and install commercial wireless antennas on the Village Hall roof at a height of 49 feet. You have turned a deaf ear to all of us.
Once the leases with Verizon Wireless have been entered, you intend to enter into a similar lease agreement with AT&T for a like wireless antenna array just below the Verizon Wireless array on the monopole. Having opened this Pandora's box, should another carrier (e.g., T-Mobile) apply to install a third commercial wireless antenna array on the monopole (assuming the monopole can structurally support that array), the Village will be required under federal law to accept the installation. Under the Spectrum Act, the height of the monopole can also be heightened as of right. At the end of the day, the Public Safety Building monopole may eventually host more than 66 commercial wireless antennas if you vote in favor of the above resolution tonight.
Think very carefully about what you are doing. Your decision will affect the health and the lifespans of our professional fire fighters, who live and sleep in the Public Safety Building 24/7 when they are on duty. Our police officers are also headquartered in the Public Safety Building. Quite a number of civilian staff work their entire workday in the Public Safety Building. All of these Village employees will be exposed to continuous wireless radiation emanating from antennas 24/7 on the monopole just a couple of feet outside the Public Safety Building. What are you going to tell our fire fighters when they develop various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, or various neurological conditions that they can trace to their continuous exposure to the wireless radiation from the very wireless antennas that you invited the telecoms to install on the Public Safety Building monopole? What are you going to tell their family members? What are you going to say to our policemen and their families?
Let's go to Village Hall. What are you going to say to the employees who work on the Third Floor of Village Hall who are working right below the AT&T wireless antennas on the roof and who will also be working below new Verizon Wireless antennas? Their health doesn't matter?
What do you say to the hundreds of Village residents who live in the immediate proximity of the Public Safety Building monopole -- the residents on Ridgecrest East, North, and West, Donellan Road, Brewster Road, Dobbs Terrace, Cohawney Road, Tompkins Road, Rugby Lane, Cambridge Road? You don't care if they develop cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's from the wireless radiation exposure? Their kids' lives don't count?
Who's going to pay the compensatory and punitive damages when residents sue the Village and the carriers down the road? Don't you realize that Verizon Wireless and AT&T have no liability insurance against risks of wireless radiation exposure? Nor does the Village? So taxpayers would ultimately be stuck -- and maybe the Village Attorney's malpractice carrier?
Last night, the Scarsdale Chinese Association held a public Zoom meeting to discuss the Village wireless proposal and the health risks of wireless radiation. Village Manager Cole was invited to participate. He declined. My daughter, Zoe, arranged for Dr. Paul Heroux, a distinguished McGill University Professor and scientist to present a brief talk and answer questions about the health risks of wireless radiation. I presented a brief overview of the Village's proposal. Interestingly, Verizon's attorneys attended. I invited them to speak and participate. They remained silent. I invite you to listen to this excellent discussion in advance of tonight's meeting by clicking here.
I also refer you to a newly-published peer-reviewed article in the journal Environmental Research. The article is titled "Problems in Evaluating the Health Impacts of Radio Frequency Radiation," and is authored by four renowned scientists. The article argues that the "precautionary principle" that normally protects the public from potentially dangerous substances, materials, and practices has been utterly ignored when it comes to the public's exposure to wireless radiation, especially from mobile communications and its infrastructure. The article examines the current state of the research on the health impacts from wireless radiation, and will educate you on the dangers your approval of the resolution tonight will unleash upon the community. The article can be accessed here:
Your vote tonight will probably be the most important vote you make as a public official. There is an alternative solution to the existing wireless coverage gaps through the use of small cell wireless facilities installed on existing or new utility poles in the public right of way or on Village or School District property. While such small cell facilities also generate wireless radiation, they are lower powered and can be strategically located so as not to impact our first responders and Village Hall staff and to minimize the impact on residential properties. To date, you have relied upon Verizon for "expert" advice. That's metaphorically the same as relying upon the fox for expert security advice on guarding the chicken house. This Board hires "independent consultants" for everything under the sun -- except here, for expert advice on closing the wireless communications gap in the Village of Scarsdale. It's simply unbelievable to me that the Village Board, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on outside consultants, refused to hire one here, and instead, chose to rely on the "expertise" of Verizon Wireless and its attorneys, with whom the Village is negotiating.
When I think about how poorly the Village Board has handled this entire wireless matter, I'm reminded most of Hannah Arendt's famous series of articles in The New Yorker, "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt concludes that Adolf Eichmann, the executor of the Final Solution, simply was an efficient bureaucrat, performing his duties in an efficient, unquestioning manner. Was he simply banal and efficient or unthinkably evil and monstrous? As you contemplate how you will vote tonight, please don't be banal and definitely don't be unthinkably evil or monstrous. Think about the Pandora's box you will be opening. Think about the lives whose health you may impact. There is a better, safer solution at hand. You owe everyone, including yourselves, to table the resolution and hire an independent expert to explore that alternative before steaming ahead with banality.
Robert J. Berg