Three service providers -Verizon, Nextel and Sprint - have working cell antennas on the rooftop of 53-00 65th Place in Maspeth, in a hillside section of the neighborhood known as the Plateau that forms one of the highest points in Western Queens.
Now a fourth, Dallas-based Metro PCS, attracted to the prime signal location, is installing its own antennas on the roof of the six-story building, despite complaints from residents who say the equipment - not to mention its installation - poses numerous health and fire safety risks.
“We keep saying we don't think the roof can hold up to more work being done,” said Susan Kohl, who lives in the building and has led a tenant efforts to halt the latest installation. “This is unsafe, someone is going to get hurt.” After residents reported falling pieces of roofing tile loosened during the installation, a visit to the building showed pieces of tile strewn on the sidewalk before the front entrance.
Metro PCS could not be reached for comment.
Beyond the installation, Kohl and others fear the increase in cellphone radiation that could occur once the new antennas are up and running.
Nerves were also stretched following a 2008 fire at the building.
A report on the incident issued by the Fire Department noted response efforts were hindered by the plethora of cables, transmitter stations, and other equipment, which gives the roof the appearance of a science fiction movie set.
Nevertheless Metro PCS was later given a special permit for several cell antennas at the building, though Community Board 5 voted against the project.
The way issues like the one at 53-00 65th Place are resolved could soon change, however, if the city passes legislation introduced by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. to regulate cell antenna placement.
The measure would require telecommunications companies alert communities and elected officials about plans for new antennas and provide written notices before applications are filed with the Department of Buildings.
The bill would also push service providers like Metro PCS to pursue new sites in non-residential areas. “We are not against cell towers,” Vallone said. “But we believe they should be responsibly placed.”