Assemblywoman Grace Meng and New York City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. joined forces today to call for amendments to The Telecommunications Act of 1996 in order to give state and local governments greater oversight and regulation of cell antenna siting. Assemblywoman Meng, who is running for Congress in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District, promised to prioritize the issue if elected and introduce a bill in Congress that would remedy the rampant proliferation of cell antenna installations and the associated health concerns, while also giving state and local municipalities greater say in the installation process.
Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, entitled "Facilities Siting: Radio Frequency Emissions Standards," states, "No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission's regulations concerning such emissions."
Assemblywoman Meng said, "As state and city officials, our hands are tied on this incredibly important quality of life issue and potential health risk. It is simply outrageous that state and local legislators are prohibited from protecting their residents -- particularly our most vulnerable citizens."
Councilman Vallone remarked, "As Chair of the New York City Council's Public Safety Committee, I am well aware of the need for reliable cell phone service. However, the unchecked and unstudied proliferation of cell antennas throughout Queens is out of control. To make matters worse, shortsighted federal laws prohibit states and municipalities from citing health concerns for our most vulnerable populations as a reason to regulate the placement of cell antennas."
Many Queens residents and a number of elected officials in the borough have expressed concern over the proliferation of new cellular antenna installations across the borough, particularly in close proximity to schools, senior centers and densely populated areas. Much of the concern stems from the impact that even low-level exposure to radio frequency energy may affect children and senior citizens differently than healthy adults. A number of studies have suggested a link between exposure to radio frequency radiation and adverse health effects, including tumor formation, cancer and cognitive defects in children. At the very least, these studies acknowledge the limitations of the analyses and cite the need for additional research.
Despite a growing concern in recent years about the cumulative effect of cell phone tower antennas that are densely grouped in residential neighborhoods, The Telecommunications Act of 1996 relies solely on studies conducted in the 1980's. These outdated studies also fail to distinguish between the amount of acceptable radiation in healthy adults versus children or seniors.
The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications as well as the Department of Buildings have both repeatedly failed to provide an analysis on the number of radiation-linked illnesses in Queens and New York City.
"Until the effect of cell antenna radiation on people is established conclusively, municipalities must be allowed to take their citizen's health into consideration. It is high time that state and local governments are given the authority to legislate in a manner that allows us to protect our constituents, while ensuring that cell companies are not prevented from providing an important service," said Vallone. "I want to thank Assembly Member Meng for prioritizing this critically important issue. Grace has a distinguished legacy of consensus building and problem solving in Albany as well as here in the community. I look forward to working with her on this matter in her capacity as the next Member of Congress from the newly drawn 6th Congressional District."
"Councilman Vallone's reputation as a strong public safety advocate precedes him and I applaud him for his diligent work on this issue," said Meng. "In Washington, I will work closely with Councilman Vallone and the New York congressional delegation to address this critical issue and introduce a bill to amend The Telecommunications Act of 1996. I will also push for renewed studies on the radiation levels emitted from cell towers so that we can collect fresh data on the health effects posed to residents in the surrounding areas of cell antenna frequencies."
If elected to the House of Representatives, Assemblywoman Meng promised to introduce a bill in Congress which would call for a number of provisions, including, but not limited to:
· Prohibiting the installation of cellular towers or related equipment within five hundred feet of a school building or senior center;
· Requiring cell companies to provide written notice of the intent to install cellular towers or related equipment to the community board, council member and state elected officials in whose respective districts the building or structure is located, prior to seeking a permit from the Department of Buildings;
· Requiring cell companies to make best efforts to locate cellular towers or related equipment in non-residential zones;
· Ensuring that all wires or wiring running through a building or structure are properly enclosed or guarded in accordance with the electrical code;
· Requiring a standard protocol for the removal of cellular antennas following abandonment or discontinuance of service.