Harrisburg Residents Aggravated About New 5G Antenna Places
(TNS) – Marc Kurowski was working from home a few weeks ago when he heard noises coming from the front of his house on Front Street in Harrisburg.
He hurried to his front window and saw construction workers dig where a street lamp post once stood.
It was then that he learned that a new Verizon 5G cell tower was to be erected right in front of his house.
“I went to the window and saw that they were digging in the little garden in front of my porch, and that was the first thing I heard about it,” Kurowski said. “No notice, no letter, no correspondence … nothing before they show up and dig.”
Kurowski has lived in his home on the 1400 block on North Front Street for about five years. He has invested a lot of money in improvements and spent two years renovating the former semi-detached house into a single-family home.
Now, a thick antenna has been attached to a 5G cell tower right in front of his house, right in the middle of his river view, as his windows look straight out onto the Susquehanna River.
“It completely destroys the view,” said Kurowksi. “I was lucky enough to have a balcony, but I’m looking at this huge 55-gallon drum-like cell tower right outside my property, it’s maybe ten feet from my front porch.”
The device is officially known as the “small radio system” and the device in front of Kurowski’s house is one of the 50 or so that were installed in the city, mostly in the city center, without consulting the local homeowners. There are 30 more planned to be installed in other areas soon, including Midtown and Uptown.
For the coming year, more are planned for a total of 120 5G installations across the city. And that’s only from Verizon. If another vendor wanted to upgrade their network, they would add more devices across the city.
The mystery has led some communities across the country to pass local laws restricting the density of such devices, but Harrisburg currently has no such existing or pending laws.
Federal regulations passed in 2018 allow utilities to bypass most local regulations to streamline infrastructure projects and place their equipment where they need it. At the state level, some bills were tabled that would give these companies even more rights through local laws.
The state has a process for protecting historic sites with reviews by the State Historic Preservation Office for environmental impact. That process already halted plans for some 5G installations at Bellevue Park as the installations were viewed as larger than the existing infrastructure, said City Engineer Wayne Martin.
Beyond that state review, local communities can only reroute an installation if it restricts sidewalk access, breaks into an accessible pedestrian route, or triggers ADA upgrades, Martin said.
Verizon has signed a lease with the City of Harrisburg to replace existing street lights with new ones that incorporate their 5G antennas, so the city can get new street lights and some cash from the deal, but they have little control over where they’ll be placed .
The federally allowed streamlining means residents across the country where 5G is implemented will find themselves in the same situation as Kurowski. The masts and an additional 5G service have been added in 31 different states, including Ohio, where residents of some locations are equally upset.
The stakes began to appear in many historic areas in Columbus, Ohio starting just before Christmas last year, raising concerns from the Historic Preservation Office, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
In Columbus, however, the communications companies ran ads with the newspaper stating the locations in advance, giving residents the option of choosing wood or metal, or trying to move a pole so it doesn’t block the entrance to buildings.
Harrisburg residents, however, were not given the same opportunity. Martin said it would be logistically impossible with more than 100 locations potentially affecting multiple neighbors when three different companies with different needs and barriers are involved in location selection: Verizon Fixed Line, Verizon Wireless, and PPL.
The new 5G technology will increase the speed and bandwidth of cell phones. However, it does require that the transmitters be placed closer together – every few hundred meters – than in 3G or 4G networks. That’s because the high frequency waves from 5G don’t travel as far as the signals from the older frequencies.
Kurowski turned to the city engineer three meters from his porch after the sudden installation and was transferred to Verizon. Kurowski has spoken to the company in hopes of finding a compromise on a possible move to the cell tower, but the company has been adamant about changes.
“In all honesty, at the time they showed absolutely no interest in any kind of discussion to shift the pole. They said, ‘It’s there, I’m sorry, you just have to put up with it,’ ”Kurowski said.
Kuroski said even the slightest pre-installation communication could have made the situation tolerable by simply placing it in the corner of his house instead of right in front of it.
“If you had spoken to me earlier, I would have asked you, we wouldn’t be in this position,” said Kurowski. “They were very steadfast in saying, ‘No, it doesn’t move.’ I’ll keep pushing, but if it has to be in a corner now, I can live with it in a corner. “
Martin said it is the city’s job to ensure that the color and style of the new masts match the surrounding lighting fixtures, that the correct light is used, and that pavement restoration standards are met. But that’s about it.
There are no issues with the location at Kurowski that would allow a change, Martin said, and moving the equipment is not possible as the new equipment ties in with the previous street light that was on the middle island by Kurowski’s home.
Moving street lamps also cannot be taken lightly, Martin said, as they are placed to continuously illuminate streets and sidewalks, so moving a street lamp could leave dangerous dark gaps.
Kurowski vented his frustration on Facebook and heard from others who found the Poles outrageous.
The director of the Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N 3rd Street, was also surprised by a small 5G radio that was being built in front of their location.
Alica Anne Schwab, the museum’s executive director, said they saw a couple of people digging one day and this confused many of the museum’s workers as they had no prior knowledge of planned structures.
“Usually when something is being built. It is just a courtesy that someone who is doing this construction or is responsible inform you or the business owner, ”said Schwab.
Some kind of warning would have helped them better prepare for visitors to the museum, she said.
“They literally blocked our front door for several days during the installation, so we were open. I mean, it’s not that we had a big event planned, but it would be nice to know that we had something posted on our website to let people know it wouldn’t work if they came to visit We planned that day so well, ”said Anne.
Schwab’s greatest concern is that the 5G pole is a “pain in the eye” for the building, which is only 1.5 meters in front of the museum. According to Schwab, the building will be 100 years old in two years, which will cause major problems for the people involved in monument protection, as they have the feeling that this cell mast would destroy a historical landmark in the area.
“So it’s a historic building, and you put this bar that blocks the view and is right in front of the entrance,” she said.
The museum feels a little helpless with the whole thing, said Schwab.
“Nobody told us, nobody asked us … nobody takes responsibility,” she said.
Kevin Dolphin, a founder of the Harrisburg nonprofit Breaking the Chainz, heard from colleagues after a 5G cell tower was built outside their Uptown office.
“It’s very worrying because it’s popping up all over the place and a lot of people are concerned about it,” said Dolphin.
Dolphin has also felt misled by construction workers who installed the mast about two to three months ago.
“When they started I said, ‘Yo, what are you up to? They said we’re going to replace it with a new light, ‘”said Dolphin. “So they told me it would be a light or a light tower. The next thing we know is a 5G tower right out there. “
Dolphin has since reached out to Mayor Eric Papenfuse to address the issue, but a representative from the bureau stated that they have no control over the locations.
Verizon declined to answer or answer questions from PennLive, including who is determining the locations of the masts and why they did not contact the property owners prior to installation, as well as future plans in the city.
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