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T-Mobile moves ahead with plans to erect cell tower in Lake Ronkonkoma

Lake Ronkonkoma residents are concerned that a new utility transmission tower with a cellular antenna above it to be erected in their community could expose them to potentially hazardous levels of radiation.

Cellphone provider T-Mobile, which began replacing an existing tower on the site in 2011 before stopping amid community opposition, sent letters to residents last week informing them it plans to finish the project.

T-Mobile officials have invited residents to meet at Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The proposed transmission tower is on a Long Island Power Authority right of way near Bay Avenue and 11th Street. LIPA officials weren't available for comment.

"There's going to be a cellphone antenna hanging over my house. This doesn't affect T-Mobile. They could care less. And they aren't very forthcoming," complained Bay Avenue resident Kurt Johnson, 50.

He said he fears his property value will plummet as a result of the tower, and that his wife, 9-year-old son and neighbors could be exposed to radiation.

"It's like they are coming in the dark of night and setting up the tower," he said.

A number of scientific studies have disputed that cellphone towers expose people to high levels of radiation, experts have said.

T-Mobile spokeswoman Jane Builder, who represents Long Island and will attend the meeting, said an environmental impact study was previously conducted by T-Mobile and that the tower will be in compliance with Federal Communications Commission regulations.

She said the wireless phone company has hosted several community forums since 2011.

One reason the existing tower at the site hasn't been replaced is due to input from several residents requesting the building of a shed to store equipment, along with improved landscaping and fencing around the construction site, Builder said.

T-Mobile won permission to build on the site from Brookhaven Town in February 2011, town officials said. After modifications were requested by then-Councilman Tim Mazzei, the project was approved in September 2012. The building permit is still valid, town officials said.

T-Mobile officials said they want to move forward with the new tower.

"Our customers are demanding high-speed service with data to meet their needs. We're not building anything new," Builder said. "Long Island is a mobile place and people need this service for mobile, safety and community reasons."

T-Mobile officials said they have already invested $1 million into the project and the foundation for the new tower has been completed.

"We have all of our approvals, but didn't want to take the community for granted," Builder said.

Some residents say they remain opposed to the new tower.

"It's too close to a school bus stop," said Lake Ronkonkoma resident Jamie Mare, 43, who has lived in the hamlet for a decade.

She said T-Mobile crews left equipment after stopping work in 2011 and dug a hole that was never filled.

"The biggest thing is the health risks associated with this. You're affecting dozens of residents and there is a school nearby. It's stressful to say the least," said Lake Ronkonkoma resident Kathy Lupo, 44.

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