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Residents urged to take stand against cell tower

Sign outside a North Hills cell tower antenna

Sign outside a North Hills cell tower antenna site. (Aug. 25, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A lawyer who has fought the placement of cellphone towers in communities nationwide has advised Brightwaters residents to aggressively oppose a proposed tower in Gilbert Park.

"You want to start screaming now," Merrick-based attorney Andrew J. Campanelli told about 75 Brightwaters residents at a meeting Thursday night. "Scream and yell, loud and often."

The meeting at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Bay Shore was organized by residents in response to a proposal by the Brightwaters village board of trustees to lease land and allow a telecommunications company to erect a 100-foot-tall cellphone tower at Gilbert Park.

Mayor Joseph A. McNulty has said the board is looking into three proposals it has received as a revenue generator for the village, but has cautioned that the plan is only in the beginning stages. He did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday, but has said the trustees have asked the village planning board to examine the proposals from Elite Towers, North Shore Tower Inc. and Suffolk Wireless LLC and make a recommendation.

Brightwaters officials have denied a reporter's request to view the proposals.

Many of the residents who attended Thursday's session at St Luke's had been turned away from a packed board of trustees meeting Sept. 24. McNulty said the cellphone tower was not on the agenda and residents would have to wait until a public hearing, which has not been planned.

During his hourlong address on Thursday, Campanelli cited several studies which he said show a correlation between cellphone towers and increased cancer rates among those living in proximity. He said one study showed the likelihood of getting cancer rose up to 400 percent for people living within 1,500 feet of a tower. He also cited instances of towers collapsing and having negative impacts on property values.

His comments ran counter to a 2010 British study, reported in The Washington Post, that showed no association between pregnant women living near towers and their children getting cancer.

Campanelli's statements alarmed some residents, who already opposed the project.

"This really woke people up," said resident Joan Manahan. "I had no idea about the health problems."

Andrew Barnett, a Brightwaters resident who organized the meeting and invited Campanelli, said his neighbors seemed "shocked" by the presentation. "Hopefully common sense will prevail and the board will do their job and protect the health and safety of the community," he said.

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