by Alexander Roberts –
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 150-foot cell tower, erected over a weekend on Tarrytown’s waterfront in September, was taken down over the weekend before the Christmas holiday.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told The Hudson Independent that the agency was honoring its commitment to the village to remove the structure after igniting a firestorm of controversy over its location adjacent to the Franklin Courts public housing complex and playground. While local zoning prohibits cell towers near residential properties, the MTA as a state agency had exercised its right to pre-empt local land use regulations.
Cell Tower Needed for Improved Communications
The MTA maintained that the Metro-North Police needed the tower to improve emergency communications. However, its design allowed for co-location of the antennas of private cell companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile, which could have paid the MTA rental fees. While Donovan said that the MTA had not yet signed co-location agreements for this or any of the other 14 monopole locations slated for the region, it remains a possibility.
“The income from such agreements could help meet MTA expenses, thus contributing to lower tolls and costs to taxpayers, as well as reducing the number of new private sites needed for cell service,” Donovan said.
The village had unsuccessfully tried to stop the installation in 2015 with a complaint before the Federal Communications Commission, charging violation of the National Historic Preservation Act because of the tower’s impact on the viewshed of the historic Tarrytown train station.
Public Forum Drew Hundreds
The public reaction, however, proved more potent as the tower energized hundreds of citizens to fill Village Hall at a public forum in October. In addition to residents, New York State Senate Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti attended the forum and were instrumental, along with Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, in negotiating with the MTA to remove the tower and in suggesting alternatives. Fixell hailed the removal, which originally had been promised by March 2019, as “an early Christmas gift.”
One of the alternatives, an existing monopole at the new State Police barracks on Paulding Avenue, will now incorporate the additional Metro-North antennas.
Dan and Nancy Hanover mobilized hundreds of residents and gathered more than 300 signatures on a petition against the monopole on Change.org. Dan Hanover said that he was glad the MTA had “kept its word” and taken down the cell tower.
Charles Dickens, a retired teacher who helped organize residents at Franklin Courts and Franklin Towers against the structure, marveled at how the community’s protest brought it down so quickly.
“That’s the power of unity, and somehow the MTA got the message that we weren’t playing,” Dickens said.