Manhattan: Mobile Antenna Lease Authorised for Water Tower | Communal

After lengthy discussions, a public hearing, and professional scientific presentations with varying conclusions, Manhattan City Council last week approved a 20-year contract with T-Mobile that allowed the wireless operator to rent space for an antenna on the city’s water tower.

In their opening speeches to the council at the March 11th meeting, representatives from T-Mobile praised the contract as a win-win situation for the company and the city.

“It is possible that other (locations) are possible, but this is by far the best location,” said Ben Marcus of T-Mobile of a cellular antenna. “It’s a great win-win situation for both parties. The city receives additional revenue and electrical service at the top of the tank. “

But councilor Betsy Mancuso, citing potential health consequences as a reason for rejecting the $ 2,000 / month lease, disagreed.

“Manhattan is a great place to start a family,” she said. “As a councilor, I want to be sure that it is a safe environment for our residents.”

At the invitation of Mancuso, Theodora Scarato delivered a detailed zoom presentation on the radiation emitted by cell towers. She cited information from the Environmental Health Trust suing the Federal Communications Commission “for ignoring the science of cell phones and wireless networks and refusing to update its 24-year-old guidelines,” according to the EHT website.

Scarato said radio frequency radiation has been classified as potentially carcinogenic by some scientists.

“They (the FCC) say there is no evidence that there is any health impact, but the FCC is not a health and science agency,” Scarato said. “What we showed in our letter is that there has not been a government agency review of the scientific literature in decades. So how can you say it is safe if you haven’t looked at all of the science?”

Their presentation followed comments from Bill Hammet, a professional engineer who spoke on behalf of T-Mobile about the physics of the antenna on the tower.

“In this case, the levels in the neighborhood around the water tank are low and there are several reasons why they are,” he said. “One is the narrow antenna patterns… given the height of this facility – 177 feet high – the energy focus is on the horizon, not down to the houses.

“Another factor is the inverse square law. The power density decreases exponentially with increasing distance, ”said Hammet.

Both Hammet and Scarato talked about the 5G technology being added to the water tower and their opinions again differed. Hammet simply described the technology as a more efficient way of encoding data on radio waves. He emphasized that 5G does not correspond to implicit millimeter waves, but instead is used on existing cell bands.

Scarato countered that “hundreds of scientists are trying to reduce human exposure to cell towers, cell phones and wireless radiation, especially 5G, because of the health risks associated with it”.

Although most of the discussion at the meeting focused on health issues, Hammet stated at the outset that they could have no influence on the council’s decision. This is because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits local governments from regulating the “placement, construction, and modification of facilities for personal wireless services based on the environmental impact of radio frequency emissions, provided that those facilities comply with the Commission’s rules on such emissions correspond”.

Even so, a handful of people testified against the proposal during the public hearing, citing mostly health concerns. The Council also received 11 letters from constituents opposed to the proposal and two letters in support of the proposal.

During the discussion, Council President Callie Hamilton referred to the regulation that prevented the council from rejecting the lease on health grounds, but also addressed the public’s concerns before voting in favor of the lease.

“There are so many scientists and so many studies. We are unable to take every study apart and determine its strengths and weaknesses. “

She added, “If I thought for a second that there is credible evidence that this is causing health risks to my own children who go to school, I wouldn’t be for it … it really matters to the entirety of the evidence to listen . ”

The council voted 3-1 to approve the lease, with Mancuso casting the only vote against.

On other matters, the council approved an amendment to the city’s fireworks ordinance, reducing the hours they can be ignited to July 3, between 6pm and 10pm. July 4th between 6pm and midnight; and December 31st from 10pm to 1am on January 1st.

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