-By Jill McManus
Virginie Glaenzer, a resident of 520 E. 90th Street on the Upper East Side of New York City, woke up one October morning to find that a huge pole holding a tall metal canister had bloomed less than ten feet from her window. It was smack in her face and blocking her pleasant view of the green playing field across the way. No advance notice, no consent, no discussion. She was upset. Other residents saw it in their windows too. Management told them they knew nothing about it. They asked a worker in the street what the pole was for, and he told them it was a 5G cell tower to provide better coverage of the area, and that they were going up all over the city. Not to worry, it wasn’t turned on yet, he said. The only sign residents had seen previous to the pole’s appearance was construction and an orange can with a notice saying “Protected Street Light Repair.”
Some of the residents could see from above a sticker on top of a metal box midway up the pole. It read: “Radiation exposure may be above public exposure limits.” They took a picture of it and posted it on social media. A few days later the sticker was gone.
Meanwhile, the families were angry about the intruding pole and alarmed about risks to their health. They were aware that there are harms and the threat of cancer from prolonged exposure to microwave radiation and the pulsed modulated frequencies of 4G and 5G radiation. One young couple, Chelsea and Joe Formica, were concerned about their fivemonth-old child; Everett Young, who wears a Pacemaker, wondered if it would still work. And they realized the property value of their homes would decrease by about 20%. They wanted the pole gone, or at least moved across the street or further way.
Cell tower at 520 E. 90th Street (Credit: Virginie Glaenzer)
The residents reached out to their local and state government representatives for help in contacting the Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI — formerly the Department of Information and Telecommunications), the city agency that directs the program. By the Telecommunication Act of 1996, siting of poles is placed in the hands of local government. But local governments have been misled to believe, falsely (and maybe for their own convenience), that it is a Federal issue and “their hands are tied.” The FCC’s and telecoms’ attempts to usurp this right were challenged successfully in New York in a recent case, ExteNet v. Village of Flower Hill case where the judge ruled that that the New York Second Circuit precedents override the FCC’s interpretation of the Act, and that the mu- nicipality has the power to allow or deny a location for a telecom pole. The precedents require that telecoms meet their legal burden of proof, that there is a gap in phone service and that the least intrusive means is used to fill that gap. In the Flower Hill case, ExteNet did not meet it, and the court upheld the denial of their application. By the terms of New York City’s franchise agreement to complete the building of 11,600 5G poles and kiosks, signed under the auspices of former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020, the Community Boards are required to be notified if poles are less than ten feet from the building.The pole on 90th Street is a bit less. But Community Board 8 had not been notified.
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright supports the removal of this pole. One OTI member responded to local representatives’ probing with the false argument that the siting was in the hands of the FCC. Another said the pole was actually 10 feet away and the bulbous top was also ten feet away, causing King Lau, one of the residents, to quip that it must be a leaning tower, leaning away from the building. The lead counsel for ExteNet, when asked if the company would voluntarily move the installation pole, said it would cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to move it. The company wouldn’t take it upon itself to move it; it was OTI’s decision. And, he said, the antenna points outward to the street. (But beam-directed waves move around to connect with nearby phones.) Further discussions are under- way. Local legislators have taken an oath, after all, to help protect constituents’ rights.
Box on pole with sticker at 90th St. (Credit Virginie Glaenzer)
Other East Side residents are also dealing with cell towers in their windows. These include Olga Humphrey on East 76th Street, and Alessandro Frati on East 83rd Street. Their fierce desire to get the towers moved, as well as that of the residents of E. 90th Street and probably many other New Yorkers who will be getting an “October Surprise” in coming months, will be ongoing. They are taking actions to shield their apartment with special paint and carbonized cloth drapes, and some are raising funds for a lawyer. But what of tenants who can’t afford time for fundraising for a lawsuit?
When will other city legislators take a stand on this increasingly contentious issue? It will probably take a series of major lawsuits or Congressional investigations into why the FCC, mandated to promote safety of life and property by the Communications Act of 1934, is not protecting these. Local legislators have taken an oath of office, after all, to help protect constituents’ rights and safety.
Besides the large poles and kiosks, some 4,000 Jumbo 5G poles are proposed for “underserved areas,” and advertised as “closing the digital divide.” These poles, looking like fat alien “lollipops” and 32 feet high (about third floor window height), have already been installed in at least half a dozen locations so far in lower Manhattan and several in the boroughs. One can assume the schedule is kept secret to forestall protest.
Can it be legal for the telecom companies, which do not monitor power levels and cannot even attest to the safety of the emissions from these towers, to place them wherever they want them? They claim to need line-of-sight access to use short- length millimeter waves to power up the millions of cell phones downloading Netflix and to activate devices of the Internet of Things (and Bodies), and eventually self-driving cars. The telecom industry is lured by a glittering dream of vast profits, and they are goaded onward by the US government and the military, who envision 5G as necessary for world domination. Some of the 5G frequencies being used by the towers can be shared and possibly be used for crowd control by burning the skin (Active Denial). They may also enable facial recognition.
What kind of future and what kind of landscape do we want? A seeming prison camp where we are surveilled at every move from rooftops and poles, where access to our cell phone conversations and videos of our doorways are available to police and other authorities, where our freedom to purchase goods is based on social scores built through facial recognition as in China, our personal data sold for profit to third parties for whatever purpose, and our bodies gradually disrupted to the point where we can no longer work or function at all from radiation sickness. Some 3–10% of the population is electro-magnetically sensitive and already ailing. Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies show the harms –disturbances such as insomnia, tinnitus, neurological and behavioral changes, changes in heart rate, hormonal changes that lead to diabetes and thyroid problems, and tumors and cancers of the brain and inner ear. We have seen effects of beamed microwaves on embassy staffs in many countries–it’s known as the “Havana Syndrome.”
Tower by bedroom on E. 83rd St. (Credit: Alessandro Frati)
The energy cost of wireless is about three times that of fiber optic cable, and it is energy intensive on an already heating planet. We don’t yet know how much the microwave emissions might be contributing to warming. We don’t know the effects of tens of thousands of satellites emitting 5G on the electric functioning of the iono- sphere and on us. What could go wrong? Get an RF meter and measure your own surroundings, your phone, your household appliances, nearby cell towers and base stations! Like your meter, you’ll be on alarm.
On the lighter side, consider: nuclear facilities, power grids, cars, airplanes, your “smart meter” or doorbell, and anything connected by 5G is hackable by a cell phone. Surely, as former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has even stated, this presents a problem for “national security.” We need a national policy rethink.
Does anyone remember that all New Yorkers were promised fiber to the premises by 2014? Fiber optic cable to devices is not easily hacked. It’s faster, more reliable and more future-orient- ed than wireless. It does not by itself emit radiation! But our public utility Verizon eased the money from local rate increase into their wireless division for the more profitable 5G buildout. Someone finally noticed the disappeared billions: accountant Bruce Kushnick. (See: The Irregulators v. FCC). That money could pay for fiber for the “last mile” instead of wireless. Who will act on this?
Let’s get rid of “smart.” Let’s keep cell phones away from our bodies and our children, give up cell phone use except for an emergency call, and do our data-searching and school studies by fiber. Let’s stop the deployment of these ugly and intrusive poles which are unnecessary and already obsolete.
We don’t know what, exactly, 5G is, but it is clearly a way station to further control of our lives by technology and AI. We need to take action now to stop — not sit back and allow — this takeover of our human rights and personal privacy.
Jill McManus, a writer and composer living in NYC