Tarrytown to Fight Cell Tower on MTA Land Near River

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by Alexander Roberts – 

In the wake of the sudden appearance of a 150-foot cell tower on Metro North Authority (MTA) land near the Hudson River waterfront, the Village of Tarrytown is gearing up for a fight. The monopole sprouted on Saturday, September 15.

“I’ve been on the phone with the governor’s representative,” said Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, “as well as Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who both want the tower removed.”

Constructed and owned by the MTA Police adjacent to Tarrytown’s low-income Franklin Courts community, it is part of a comprehensive multi-tower plan to enhance emergency communications. As a state agency, it could bypass village safety and land use regulations. Tarrytown’s zoning ordinance, for example, requires that a cell tower be located a distance equal to its height from any residential homes, which in this case would represent a circle with radius of 150 feet.

Called the “fall zone,” this buffer would limit potential injury in the event of collapse or flying ice and snow. However, a playground and about two dozen homes sit in the fall zone.

Residents Concerned about View Impact

While Franklin Courts residents expressed safety concerns, homeowners on MacArthur Lane, Riverview and Miller Avenues were outraged over the imposition of an “eyesore” in their views of the Hudson River.

Thirty-year resident Dan Hanover, who lives on Independence Street, created a petition with 40 signatures calling for the removal of the tower. “Everybody is appalled that such a monstrosity was built with so little notice or input from residents,” he said. (Hanover’s petition on Change.org may be accessed by searching for “Tarrytown” or “cell tower.”)

In addition, the Journal News is sponsoring a town meeting about the cell tower at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 9 at Tarrytown Village Hall. It will be hosted by Tax Watch Columnist David McKay Wilson.

At the time the monopole was proposed in 2015, Fixell said the MTA was uninterested in considering other sites. Though, in a recent interview with The Hudson Independent’s editorial board chair, Barrett Seaman on Indy Talks, Fixell wondered whether an antenna atop the Metro North overpass couldn’t accomplish the same thing as the tower.

“I suspect that they picked this site because they owned the land, could circumvent the village regulations, and as owner gain revenue from renting the tower to wireless carriers,” Fixell said.

Stymied by state law, the village sued based upon the proposed tower’s potential visual effects on nearby historic properties and the surrounding landscape under the National Historic Preservation Act. A court decision against Tarrytown came in March 2018.

In response to an inquiry by The Hudson Independent, MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said, “The monopoles serve the express purpose of bolstering the state’s E911 and other public safety radio capabilities and are completely safe and meet or exceed local and national building codes. The Tarrytown site was selected by the MTA because it is on MTA property, allows coverage to fill a gap in 911 and police radio connectivity, and other sites meeting those criteria could not be identified.”

Several other towns have tried to stop the MTA’s tower plans without success, although the village of Mt. Kisco convinced the MTA to relocate a proposed tower on village property.

While the MTA denied basing its choice of sites on potential revenues from wireless carriers, it confirmed that the agency has a revenue sharing agreement with Lendlease, the company that recently acquired Parallel as the site manager. According to a published report, the MTA is looking at renting the tower to private carriers that would attach their antennae to it, though the MTA will pay no taxes on the income.

Fixell is currently examining the village’s options for another lawsuit, but is pessimistic based on the lack of success in other cases. He feels that public pressure might achieve greater success.

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