Tarrytown Residents Triumph:
by Alexander Roberts –
The end came in a dramatic statement by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) shortly before 10 p.m. on the eve of the MTA’s monthly board meeting. The agency that had hastily erected a 150-foot monopole adjacent to the Franklin Courts public housing complex announced it would take it down by March 2019.
“The MTA has committed to removing the monopole from the Tarrytown Train Station site and relocating its essential law enforcement communications equipment. We have worked with our partners at the Thruway and the State Police to identify alternate sites, and we are confident we will be able to find one that can be activated by March. That means we do not expect to put the Tarrytown Train Station tower into service and will be able to dismantle it.”
The MTA Police said the tower, which appeared on Saturday, September 15th, was critical to its system-wide plan to enhance emergency communications. With its late night statement, the authority hoped to blunt a furor that had united the Tarrytown community.
In exercising its prerogative as a state agency to bypass local zoning, the Authority sited the monopole just 30 feet from the Franklin Courts playground. This would have been illegal under village land use regulations because it lies in a radius where collapse could endanger children in the playground and more than a dozen homes.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
At a public meeting on the issue organized by David McKay Wilson, Tax Watch Columnist for The Journal News, there was standing room only at Village Hall. Speaker after speaker denounced the MTA for bypassing the normal zoning process, placing low-income tenants in Tarrytown’s only public housing at risk, and despoiling views of the Hudson River.
“It’s an outrage,” said New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, “when you can wake up and find something like this in your backyard adjacent to a playground and outside someone’s window.”
Senator Stewart-Cousins joined Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, and resident Dan Hanover on a panel moderated by Wilson. The MTA declined to send a representative. Assemblyman Abinanti said the tower, “looks like a big finger sticking up in the air.”
TOWER LABELED “MONSTROSITY”
But the drama of the night came from citizens stirred to action by an effort led by long-time residents Dan and Nancy Hanover, who started a petition against the monopole that garnered 300 signatures on Change.org. “We saw this monstrosity on our front porch and we were told there was nothing we could do about it,” they said.
Charles Dickens, a retired teacher living at Franklin Towers offered to organize residents of public housing. He noted, “They picked that spot because they figured that low income people wouldn’t complain because they’re too busy with day to day living.”
Mayor Fixell accepted criticism from several residents who said he should have done more to oppose the cell tower when it was proposed in 2015. The mayor said the village did, in fact, commence a complaint before the Federal Communications Commission that year, charging violation of the National Historic Preservation Act because of the tower’s impact on the viewshed of the historic Tarrytown Train Station. The FCC denied the complaint in March of this year, clearing the way for construction. “We can’t go back in time,” said Mayor Fixell, “but we can move forward.”
VILLAGE PROPOSES ALTERNATIVE SITES
The village subsequently provided the MTA with four alternative sites that would reduce the visual impact and not threaten local homes.
The sites offered include the new New York State Police barracks on Paulding Avenue, which will have its own array of antennas, the Tarrytown water tank in the southern part of the village, a parking lot owned by the village along Green Street near Losee Field, and the tourist building at the end of the shared use path for the Mario Cuomo Bridge. An MTA source told The Hudson Independent that selection of one of those sites was “highly likely.”
Village Administrator Richard Slingerland promoted information about how the public might speak before the MTA Board at its monthly meeting October 24th, ramping up pressure on the MTA.
Although most residents decided not to attend after learning of the MTA’s decision, lifelong Tarrytown resident and mother, Haydee McCarthy, did testify. After thanking the board for its decision to relocate the monopole, she asked that Tarrytown residents be allowed to be part of the relocation process. She commented, “We will not be satisfied with just shifting this into someone else’s backyard. … We will not be going away until our homes and our children are protected.”
Editor’s note: This story has been amended to delete an assertion in the original version that the village might be willing to share revenue for rental space on a relocated tower. Mayor Fixell has since clarified that Tarrytown will not allow commercial antennas to be co-located on any pole on village-owned property.