Backyard Battle Over Cell Phone Poles

"That tower is dangerously close to my newborn's nursery, my 3-year-old's bedroom and it makes me sick," says one homeowner

By Tom Llamas
|  Friday, Feb 4, 2011  |  Updated 10:10 AM EDT
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Long Island homeowners fuming over cell phone antennas invading their neighborhoods.

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When NBC New York pulled into a Garden City neighborhood on Maxwell Avenue dozens of residents lined up to tell us about cell phone antennas invading their neighborhoods.

All week NBC New York has been following up on stories of cell phone towers popping up in homeowner’s backyards and even their front lawns. "I don't need another tower and I don't need it in my backyard," says Mary Timmins who lives in Garden City.

Timmins neighbor Sheri Demarco is trying to sell her home but says she can't because after one look at a cell phone antenna in her backyard prospective buyers say:

"Thank you nice knowing you good bye," recalls Demarco.

Jacqueline Straus lives next door to Demarco and says she worries about the Radio Frequency bouncing off the pole. "That tower is dangerously close to my newborn's nursery my 3-year-old's bedroom and it makes me sick," says Straus.

The company installing the antennas around Garden City is NextG Networks. The same California company that put up an antenna inches from a front lawn in Union New Jersey, and a cell phone pole on a front lawn in Brookhaven Long Island.

"We call it construction by ambush this thing just showed up one morning,” says John Rouse who is the Superintendent of Highways for Brookhaven. Village officials in Garden City told NBC New York what NextG is doing is legal. The company is putting their equipment on existing utility poles in the village. A freedom granted under the Federal Telecommunications Act.

"This antenna is 50-feet from a newborn’s bedroom. Now can anyone tell us that this newborn is not going to have an affect in 5, 10, 15 years from now? I don't think so," says Lou Serrapica who worries about his fellow Garden City residents who live near the cell phone antennas.

On NextG's website it says the company’s radio frequency on devices are 50 to 100 times below the FCCs maximum allowances. An independent review of Garden City's units found the RF to be comparable to household WIFI. But residents say they don't like how NextG handled the installations. We heard similar stories of bad customer service in Brookhaven and Union.

"It says NextG in bold letters has the right to deploy its equipment in your backyard. It's my backyard it's not their backyard. I don't have any rights this is not America anymore," says Timmins who was holding up a letter sent by the company.

NextG tells NBC New York they inform residents before installation but tell there subcontractors who do the actual installations not to speak to homeowners because of past instances where homeowners try to block work progress or get violent.

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