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CB 4 rejects city antennas

A Corona nursing home rooftop will not house antennas for the city's new emergency responder wireless network if Community Board 4 has anything to say about it.

Members voted 18-12 to reject plans brought forth by the city to put the equipment on top of the Rego Park Health Center at 111-26 Corona Ave., citing fears of radiation and military surveillance.

"This is going to be the next big tobacco lawsuit with all the tumors," said member James Lisa, referring to cell phone transmissions.

Robert Gaudioso, an attorney representing Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor awarded the contract to install the system, said the antennas employ similar technology, but each operates at a power of less than five watts. Commercial cell towers operate at a power of several hundred watts, he said.

Robert Valdes-Clausell, director of management at a Middle Village co-op, worried the antennas would be used by the military to communicate with police during a major emergency. Such a possibility, he said, would invalidate civilian protections for the building in the Geneva Conventions.

"It's not intended for military use," Gaudioso said.

"I've got news for you," said CB 4 District Manager Richard Italiano, refuting a member who brought up Valdes-Clausell's earlier suggestion. "If there's a national emergency, you can be sure the federal government is going to seize all cell transmitters for its own purposes."

The proposed antennas would be part of a citywide wireless data network for municipal use. The plan calls for antennas to be installed at 400 locations throughout the city. Italiano said the antennas for the nursing home required a public hearing because they must have a variance to be installed on a smaller rooftop than usual.

The nursing home already has several commercial cell towers on its roof, he said.

Not all members opposed the antennas. Alirio Orduna, a former Marine, said he supported the antennas if they would aid law enforcement.

"If the government wants to put a camera in the corner, hey, I'm sorry, you have to compromise," he said in response to comments that the antennas could be used to wirelessly transmit police security camera footage.

CB 4 is not the only community board to react unfavorably to the antennas. CB 12 in southeastern Queens rejected an antenna proposal last month, citing concerns about police spying.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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