NextG shrinks cell signal boxes in LI village

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Bowing to community pressure, a cellular company says it will shrink the size of controversial signal boxes planned for residential Massapequa Park.

The village board voted Monday to accept NextG Networks' latest proposal for nine pole-top transmitters providing enhanced MetroPCS service. Boxes originally the size of filing cabinets - 4 feet tall, 15 inches wide and 10 inches deep - have been reduced to a third of the width, with a few inches shaved off the height.

"We're here to protect our residents," said Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna Jr. "You'd be hard-pressed to call the new boxes abnormally large."

About 20 residents attended the meeting, many of whom had decried the equipment as a blight since its initial proposal last fall. They said property values would sink as a result.

"Do we know for a fact that every effort was made by [NextG] to avoid the residents of this community?" resident Allen Wittenberg, whose home is near one of the proposed boxes, said at the meeting.

NextG attorney Dan Deegan replied that the new boxes only have a radius of several blocks and are meant to cover gaps in residential coverage so the company was limited in potential locations.

"This is something that has not been done with other locations on Long Island," Deegan said of the compromise for smaller boxes. "We have come here in good faith."

NextG had started installing the full-size boxes last month, surprising village officials who believed a compromise was in the works. The independent carrier, which already has 300 pole-top transmitters on Long Island, did not need village permission for the work on utility right-of-way.

But Altadonna asked that they stop until alternatives could be publicly discussed. NextG agreed.

The dust-up typified reaction to cellular expansion on Long Island. Even as more people rely on cell signals for primary phone and Internet, fewer want the often-unsightly equipment near their homes.

Hempstead recently rejected a T-Mobile plan to place six large antennas on a Jewish Center roof.

"On the one hand, people are against it," Deegan said. "And on the other hand, they complain they don't have good coverage."

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