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PSEG wrapping up giant radio pole project as residents raise concerns

Large steel poles installed by PSEG line southbound

Large steel poles installed by PSEG line southbound County Road 51 in Eastport.   Some pole installations and planned installations have raised residents' and officials' ire. Credit: James Carbone

With relatively little fanfare, PSEG Long Island is wrapping up a project that will see the installation of more than a dozen steel poles, some nearly 200 feet, erected on LIPA properties across Long Island.

The poles, which the utility said hold radio communication equipment to help automate switching during outages and are aimed at improving system reliability, are located on LIPA properties in a mix of remote and neighborhood sites, and few raised objections from neighbors or officials — until now.

One such structure proposed for Montauk Highway in downtown Eastport, a 100-foot pole with a 20-foot radio antenna, has raised the ire of Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who said he’s mulling a resolution that would consider the possible fall-line of the pole if it were to topple.

"We have concerns about this and its visual impact," said Romaine, noting some East End towns have laws that tall monopole structures like windmills be located completely within their potential fall line. "This may be something we legislate on very quickly," he said.

It’s not just Romaine who is concerned about the structure, which is one of only three that is yet to be installed. Residents responding to a civic group’s questionnaire about the antenna raised a series of issues, and are trying to get PSEG to host a meeting about it.

"The tiny hamlet [of Eastport] really cannot absorb another oversized structure like this," said one resident. An East Moriches resident called the project "insane," saying PSEG "should be reminded that this is NOT a large suburban area" and requesting that the entire substation be moved out of the hamlet. Said another resident, "Definitely no more poles from PSEG."

PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler, in a series of statements in June, said, "All municipalities were consulted before construction began. This project is beneficial to our customers, making the electrical grid more resilient to storms minimizing the number of customers impacted by an electrical line outage. This is a good thing."

PSEG agreed to remove 31 steel poles from the hamlet as part of a settlement with the towns of Brookhaven and Southampton. It buried the line instead, at a cost to all ratepayers of nearly $12 million. Residents suggest PSEG use an Eastport Fire Department pole instead of the new one.

PSEG benefits from LIPA’s state-authority exemption from local zoning and permitting requirements. The utility won a case against East Hampton that sought to block its work erecting tall wooden poles shortly after PSEG took control of the system in 2014. A state court backed LIPA’s exemption.

Said PSEG's Flager, "As a good community partner, we continue to meet with elected officials and community leaders to address any concerns they may have with this much-needed project." But she noted, "LIPA is exempt from local law requirements. It does not have to obtain municipal permits to install the pole and antenna."

She said the pole locations were selected to ensure comprehensive [radio frequency] coverage in an efficient and effective manner, with consideration to environmental factors and potential impacts."

Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he has some issues with an even larger PSEG steel pole — 195-feet including antenna — that’s going to be erected on a LIPA substation off Sunrise Highway just east of the Shinnecock Canal.

While the town’s planning department received notice from PSEG, Schneiderman said the town "is a little skittish" because of its experiences dealing with PSEG’s "monster poles" in Eastport and on Route 51.

"We’re leery, of course, about what it’s going to entail," he said of the structure, which also includes a generator with a 500-gallon propane tank. "We also understand the need for infrastructure and reliability and we try to balance out the need."

In Patchogue village, PSEG reached out to the mayor to alert him to a 195-foot pole going up in the substation on what is a part industrial, part residential Electric Street. Town clerk Lori Devlin said a reporter’s call was the first she’d heard of the project, and others in the town said there’d been little notice of it.

Devlin subsequently drove to the site and saw the tower was already installed, with two radio antennas.

She later spoke to village mayor Paul Pontieri who she said was consulted by PSEG and "he had no objection based on the location and the need."

She noted there were "no public hearings nor was community input sought. We have not received any complaints from the local residents."

In Eastport, Jim Gleason, vice president of the East Moriches Property Owner’s Association, a neighborhood group, said the association has been trying to set up meetings with PSEG to address resident’s complaints.

"It’s going to be a towering pole; especially from the condos, it will be unpleasant to look at," Gleason said.

In addition to Eastport, Southampton and Patchogue, PSEG already has installed 120-foot steel poles with antennas (or soon will) at 20 Cedar St. in Babylon, 2285 Harrison Ave. in Baldwin (not yet installed), 133 Connetquot Ave. in Great River, 288 Pulaski Rd. in Greenlawn, 1201 Union Tpke. in Lake Success, and 798 Beach St. in Port Jefferson.

Steel poles of 150 feet with 20-foot antennas are set for 1301 Pulaski Rd. in Fort Salonga, 1131 West Main St. in Riverhead, and 50 Zorn Blvd. in Yaphank. A 195-foot pole and antenna is installed on Lilco Road in Shoreham.

Flagler said phase 2 of the program includes the Eastport site and another at a LIPA substation in West Babylon, and added, "Additional poles will be installed in the future, as needed."

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