Topic 9: Tenants say the cell equipment creates trouble with phone service

Debate Question: Given that all the equipment installed on the roof of the building is approved for use by the FCC, would the Highland Park zoning board be justified in denying Cingular's application to put an antenna on the roof due to the neighbors' dissatisfaction?

Source: Star-Ledger

Tenants say the cell equipment creates trouble with phone service
Star-Ledger Staff
Tuesday, April 23, 2002

It was like a gift from above for Nathan Sobov, the owner of a five- story apartment building on Raritan Avenue, Highland Park's main drag.

Cellular phone companies started calling and offering to rent space on his roof -- first AT&T, then Nextel, Cingular and Sprint.

It seems the Ansonia Apartments, Sobov's building at Fifth and Raritan avenues, is the highest spot around in an area that is not well served by antenna towers.

But Sobov's good fortune has turned out to be something of a nightmare for at least some of his tenants.

Workers installing the antennas just overhead stomped, banged and drilled so loudly the noise sent some of the fifth-floor tenants scurrying out of their homes in search of quiet.

Once the antennas were up, some of the tenants' cordless phones started cutting off in mid- conversation or stopped working altogether.

And worst of all, they are faced with the prospect of living under a storm of radio frequencies that, despite the lack of scientific proof, they fear could cause health problems down the road.

With two antennas already on the roof -- those owned by AT&T and Nextel -- several of Sobov's tenants are determined not to let Sprint and Cingular follow suit.

Last night, four tenants showed up to the Highland Park zoning board hearing on the Cingular application to do all they can to stop the installations.

Their options are limited. Federal law prohibits local zoning boards from rejecting cellular antennas on the basis that they could cause health defects.

Testimony last night focused mainly on the question of whether the Cingular antenna would exacerbate problems the tenants are having -- or could have -- with their cordless phones and other appliances.

David Charles, a 37-year-old tenant, said his brand new cordless was rendered useless after the first antenna went up on the roof. "I just stopped using the thing," Charles said. O

ther tenants concurred, including Eric Landskroner, 26, who said his cordless phone was malfunctioning chronically. "In the event of an emergency the last thing I want to do is pick up the phone and have there not be a dial tone," Landskroner said.

The zoning board continued to hear testimony on the application well into the evening, the second hearing on the matter. After two hours, it appeared the issue would carry over at least one more meeting.

Last modified: Wed Sep 13 14:57:24 EDT 2000