By Nate Cohen
It’s the night of October 16th. A crowd of Lake Success residents are gathered together at the Lake Success Village Hall anticipating the start of a hearing on the potential installation of new antennas to improve cell coverage. Much of the room is against their installation; they are concerned about aesthetics, the impact on property value, and most importantly the long-term health effects the antennas could have.
As the hearing went on, one thing was made clear: the narrative of the residents and the narrative of ExteNet were strikingly different. ExteNet’s narrative was laid out at the very start of the hearing. The company discussed the antennas and explained that there was no reason to be worried about potential radiation. They assured residents that the poles complied with both FCC regulations and the occupational exposure limit, provided individuals remain at least four feet from the antenna’s face.
They also explained that the antennae are necessary to fill in Verizon’s gap in coverage in the area. The new towers will create faster and better coverage and will lay the groundwork for 5G. And it won’t just be Verizon customers receiving better service; the new antennae can support two other networks.
After the official presentation, residents rose up one by one to discuss their concerns with the health impacts of the towers.
Although ExteNet’s assertion that the poles comply with FCC regulations is accurate, many experts in the field of radiation have spoken out against the weaknesses of these regulations. Recently, 225 electromagnetic field experts from 41 different nations signed off on a letter asking the FCC to reconsider their rules on electromagnetic radiation due to “increasing rates of cancer and neurological diseases that may be caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields.”
While many hope that strong opposition could prevent these antennae, the installation of these antennae are inevitable, according to Dr. Robert Gal, a trustee for the Village of Lake Success. Previously, according to Dr. Gal, villages had to approve proposals by cell companies before new technologies could be installed. Now, due to new legislation, companies can bypass village approval as long as their proposals meet existing village codes.
This effectively means that while the Village of Lake Success can currently work with ExteNet to make changes to their application now, this may not be the case in the future. So even if the applications were to be turned down, there would be nothing preventing ExteNet from reapplying later on when the village has no say.
Currently seven out of the 13 proposed antennae are within a half mile of South High, which is worrisome to some students and parents.
But while some residents are greatly opposed, others question the importance of putting up any fight. Even with growing evidence of the harm caused by radiation and its link to diseases, it isn’t as if the general population’s being exposed to radiation regularly. There are already cell towers and many people spend all day using their phone, which emits radiation constantly. Will a few new towers actually make a difference?
Lake Success resident Anthony Golia thinks the true answer may be somewhere in between: “There are quite a few studies that indicate a correlation between higher cancer risk… [and exposure. There are] other studies that say there is no correlation. So in general, people should look a little deeper in how to balance all of the benefits that large telecom companies have given us with the health impacts.”