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Oyster Bay agrees to stop removing cell antennas at heart of lawsuit

Oyster Bay has agreed to stop removing cellphone

Oyster Bay has agreed to stop removing cellphone antennas placed by Crown Castle, a Texas-based company. Credit: Aaron Zebrook

The Town of Oyster Bay has agreed to stop removing cellphone antennas that are at the center of a lawsuit by a Texas company alleging the town illegally revoked permits for the equipment.

In a stipulation approved Tuesday by Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein of the U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip, the town also agreed to return two poles and antennas that had been installed by Crown Castle NG East LLC in Woodbury and Syosset and later were removed and seized by the town.

The seized equipment was damaged, and Crown Castle requested the stipulation to prevent removal — and potential damage — of additional equipment, company spokeswoman Julie Miner said in a statement. The stipulation requires the town to pay for any damage. Todd Steckler, a Garden City attorney representing the town in the case, said he does not know if there was damage to the equipment.

In July, Crown Castle asked the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the removal of additional equipment.

Steckler said the town preferred to sign a stipulation rather than go before the court for potential hearings on the injunction request because the town is still gathering facts in the case, including exactly how many antennas Crown Castle has installed in the town and exactly where. The stipulation, he said, “maintains the status quo.”

The equipment in question are called “small cells,” which are antennas that increase wireless capacity in neighborhoods, improving reliability, Miner said. Most are attached to existing utility poles in the town, she said.

The town’s clash with Crown Castle began in May, when the town began rescinding permits after residents complained about the antennas being installed in their neighborhoods.

Crown Castle sued the town in June, alleging that the town illegally revoked 22 permits it had granted to install the small-cell antennas and effectively denied two applications to install more wireless equipment. Crown Castle alleges the town denied the company due process and violated federal laws governing installation of wireless equipment.

In a counterclaim filed in July, the town said the company did not obtain the necessary permits to install equipment in the public right of way area between the curb and sidewalk, and asked the court for an order to remove all allegedly unpermitted equipment.

Steckler said Thursday that even though Crown Castle apparently was granted highway permits for the antennas, “there were no building permits issued for any of these sites . . . There is no agreement or right for Crown Castle to be in the public right of way.”

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