‘There's no need to proceed. We don't want it.’

Residents express opposition to proposed cell tower during community meeting


A community meeting turned rowdy, with over 100 West Islip residents attending to share their opinions about construction of a proposed cell tower in their hamlet. The proposed 102-foot monopole would be constructed on state-owned land next to the Northbound Access Ramp at RT 27A (Montauk Highway) onto the Robert Moses Causeway.

Residents expressed overwhelming opposition to the project, citing concerns for their health and potential decreases to their property values.

The public meeting, held in the auditorium of West Islip High School on June 27, was hosted by Crown Communication New York Inc., and specifically led by Timothy Young, Crown Castle regional manager, and Jacqueline Phillips Murray, Esq., of The Murray Law Firm.

Crown Communication New York Inc. has functioned as the State of New York’s Wireless Telecommunications Site Manager since 1997, pursuant to a service contract administered by New York State Police. By developing infrastructure to support governmental, public safety and commercial wireless communications needs, the company aims to reduce the proliferation of new structures through shared-use of wireless infrastructure.

Young and Murray explained that commercial carriers Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile identified a need for improved connection in the West Islip area. After the carriers found no private lands sites to be viable for the project, prompting New York State—and therefore Crown Castle—to acquire land for the project. The carriers provide and maintain cell service, while Crown Castle constructs and maintains the tower structure itself.

The public meeting was the very beginning of a lengthy process, held at the earliest conceptual stage of the process. Murray explained that the meeting is so preliminary, that environmental studies and soil testing that would determine whether the site is even viable for construction has not yet commenced.

“The purpose of this meeting is to gather comments and give it back to the state, so they can make an informed decision on what they want to do with this property or not,” explained Young.

A majority of residents who took to the microphone inquired about the potential health impacts that could result from close proximity to the tower and radiation waves, with some residents asking for a yes or no answer as to whether it was 100 percent safe. To the audible dissatisfaction of residents, Murray continuously stated that Crown Castle follows all Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines on human exposure and safety.

While some residents admitted that their cell service is subpar, they had qualms about the proposed location, and suggested less populated areas.

“Why pick an area that is 100 feet away from somebody’s backyard?,” asked West Islip resident, Al DiBernardo. “If you asked yourself, ‘What would be the worst place we could possibly put something like this,’ that would be the area.”

Danielle, a Gladstone Avenue resident, asked what percentage a home value would decrease when being directly located near a cell tower.

“Studies in more recent years show there is not an impact because people are actually attracted to areas with good cell service,” responded Murray. The response was met by an eruption of voiced disagreement from attendees.

A singular resident expressed his approval of the project due to the necessity of better cell service, and was immediately heckled by fellow attendees, resulting in a boisterous, cross-auditorium argument.

Islip Town councilman Mike McElwee addressed Murray and Young, urging them to listen to the residents, and dispelled the idea that additional cell service was requested by local emergency responders.

“I’ve talked to all of the chiefs, all of the district commissioners. I spoke to the inspector of the precinct. He went to his communications people. Nobody came back to me to say that there is a concern for that,” said McElwee.

State Sen. Alexis Weik expressed her opposition to the project as well. Weik alleged that last fall, she learned that Crown Castle reached out to the West Islip Historical Society for their approval to construct the cell tower. After sharing the news with the community and asking for feedback, residents expressed extreme opposition.

“[The West Islip community] felt like you had been sneaking and working behind their back, which is never a positive thing when you are trying to work in a community,” said Weik. “I’ve been sitting here listening—you have clearly not answered any questions in a satisfactory manner. There’s no need to proceed. We don’t want it.”

What should residents expect next?

“The next step is to go through the process, which includes providing the results of the community outreach meeting to the state, providing the state with any written comments that we have received… and then there is a lengthy review process if the project goes forward, for purposes of environmental assessment,” said Young. 


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