Two-and-a-half years ago, City leaders applauded themselves for bringing an ‘equitable expansion of 5G mobile service’ to the five boroughs. Now, the Upper East Side is getting a look at what that actually means: a large tower, packed with 5G transmission equipment — some of it even requiring a radio frequency radiation warning — suddenly installed atop a streetlight on a sleepy Yorkville block, right outside residents’ windows.
“The only notification that we received was that the streetlight was being repaired,” said Chelsea, a resident at Gracie Gardens— a co-op building located on East 90th Street between York and East End Avenue, across from Asphalt Green — who asked we not publish her last name.
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“There are over 300 units in our building and we’re all against this antenna,” she added.
On Saturday, October 1st, telecommunications technicians were seen installing the transmission hardware in a large grey cylinder and a separate grey box on the streetlight, which stands just nine feet in front of Gracie Gardens.
“It’s less than 10 feet from my five month old son’s nursery, and it’s less than 10 feet from a resident in our building’s home with a pacemaker,” Chelsea says.
“He contacted the medical device company and was advised to stay nine feet away from the pole at all times,” she added.
For Virginie Glaenzer, who lives on the co-op’s third floor, that means the 5G equipment is right outside her living room window.
“The funny thing is that there was a sticker on top of that box that says careful,” Glaenzer told Upper East Site on Thursday, “someone came and they removed the sticker.”
Photos taken earlier this month and shared with Upper East Site, show a large sticker affixed to the top of the grey box, sitting roughly twenty feet off the ground, warning about radio frequency exposure. On Thursday, there was no sign of that warning label.
“[Residents] were told that [the technicians] were only there to take the sticker down,” Chelsea explained, “So they came and they took the sticker down, and that’s it.”
Two months before Covid would turn NYC’s streets into a ghost town, City leaders hailed the franchise agreements they’d reached with ten companies, to install 5G equipment on top of street poles citywide.
“The agreements … mark another critical step forward in the creation of a reliable, connected 5G network that will serve New Yorkers across all parts of our City,” then-Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Jessica Tisch said in January 2020, when the streetlight 5G antenna deals were approved.
Tisch is now Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. DSNY did not immediately respond to Upper East Site’s request for comment from Commissioner Tisch on the 5G antennas.
“New York City is the fastest paced city in the world and if we want to keep that title we need the fastest wireless with 5G, and we need it now” said then-Upper East Side Council Member Ben Kallos, praising the deals at the time.
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“Goodbye high latency slow downloads and hello low latency high speed with ultra reliable connections,” Kallos added back then.
Former Council Member Kallos did not respond to Upper East Site’s request for comment.
Gracie Gardens residents have shared their concerns with City Council Member Julie Menin, whose office tells Upper East Site they’ve reached out to the Office of Technology and Innovation — the agency now responsible for overseeing the 5G equipment deployment — to advocate that the antenna be relocated, but are still in discussions.
Upper East Site reached out to Office of Technology and Innovation as well as ExteNet, the company behind the 5G antenna deployment.
OTI would only say the equipment has not yet been activated, while ExteNet did not reply to our inquiry by time of publication.
“What stories are they telling themselves at the executive level — to put a pole and be the one signing off and saying, ‘yeah, 10 feet, it’s fine,” Ms. Glaenzer wondered.
Residents of Gracie Gardens are now seeking support from their Upper East Side neighbors, asking they send a pre-written email to city officials detailing their plight and request for relocation. You can find that email here.
Meanwhile, one building resident has her own idea where the equipment should be relocated.
“I think a good spot would be right in front of Gracie Mansion.”
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One just went up in front of my living room on
E 76th. I am so stressed out over this. I also live new door to a pre-k. Why are they putting these up in front of homes and schools?
Doesn’t sound like this got even a tiny bit of governmental review, at least not for real. Mind you, it’s hard to find good spots, but outside someone’s window that low? Even technically makes no sense.
You clearly understand what you’re talking about