FIGHTING THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC SPACE - LINK5G TOWERS
In 2022, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) announced plans to restart its franchise agreement with CityBridge to continue the installation of LinkNYC kiosks throughout the city, but this time with three-story tall chrome 5G towers attached. This program was rolled out with little to no public review process. FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, along with other New York City preservation groups, is at the forefront of advocating for a more sensible solution to expanding our telecommunications networks and transparent public review and implementation process of the Link5G program. Consider donating to FRIENDS to help us advocate for more sensitive telecommunications infrastructure.
What is the Link5G tower program?
The Link5G tower program is a public/private partnership between the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation and CityBridge, a consortium of private telecommunications companies. The Link5G program was introduced to the public and sold to city officials as an essential tool in bridging the digital divide, promising "free high-speed wifi" that reached the interiors of New Yorkers' homes. While we are sympathetic to the need to provide improved wireless and cellular technology, especially in neighborhoods that are identified as “digital deserts” where residents have sparse and unreliable telecommunications services, several of the proposed Link5G sites are inexplicably clustered in commercial areas, many of which happen to be historic districts. CityBridge blatantly disregarded all historic preservation regulations at the local, state, and federal levels while selecting these sites. They even ignored their own rule against locating Link5G towers adjacent to individual landmarks.
Following concerns raised by Congressman Jerrold Nadler in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, and after months of push-back from FRIENDS, our preservation colleagues, elected officials, and concerned community members on the Upper East Side and across the city, the proposed 32-foot tall Link5G towers will be subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, a process that evaluates adverse effects on historic properties from any projects that are funded, licensed, or approved by Federal agencies. Click here to read the letter from the FCC to CityBridge LLC, the Link5G tower vendors, stating that they "must complete the Commission procedures implementing the historic preservation review process pursuant to Section 106 of NHPA" and "comply with these rules before constructing additional Link5G tower[s]".
Section 106 Review
After an embattled implementation process and a false start, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act Review for the Link5G towers is beginning. CityBridge, the company installing the Link5G towers, has confirmed in meetings with FRIENDS and other New York City preservation organizations that the towers will NOT provide free 5G wifi inside New Yorkers’ homes as promised to the public during the approval process. Free wifi will only be available on the street, similar to the existing LinkNYC kiosk program. This is an egregious violation of public trust that trades our public space to enrich private entities. Proposed Link5G sites across New York City’s five boroughs can be viewed in the context of their proximity to landmarks and historic districts on this map. There are over 300 Link5G towers under review on the map, but roughly 4,000 Link5G towers are planned. Each tower is a three-story tall chrome pole topped with a container to accommodate equipment for up to five private telecommunications providers who will rent the space from CityBridge.
FRIENDS has been awarded Consulting Party status and will be reviewing every Link5G tower proposed on the Upper East Side. All proposed sites on the Upper East Side require Section 106 review, meaning that every single proposed Link5G tower is either in or adjacent to a National Register of Historic Places eligible or designated historic district or property. Link5G towers are proposed for the following places:
- 805 Fifth Avenue, adjacent to Scenic Landmark Central Park and Individual Landmark the Knickerbocker Club in the Upper East Side Historic District
- 688 Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side Historic District
- 1 East 63rd Street in the Upper East Side Historic District
- 570 Park Avenue in the Upper East Side Historic District
- 98 East 64th Street in the Upper East Side Historic District
- 1051 Fifth Avenue adjacent to Scenic Landmark Central Park and both the Metropolitan Museum Historic District and Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District
- 1070 Fifth Avenue adjacent to Scenic Landmark Central Park and Individual Landmark the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District
- 1115 Fifth Avenue adjacent to Scenic Landmark Central Park and Individual Landmark Felix and Frieda S. Warburg House in the Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District
- 1354 Madison Avenue in the Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District
- 1190 Madison Avenue adjacent to the Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District
- 1040 Park Avenue in the Park Avenue Historic District
- 1105 Park Avenue in the Park Avenue Historic District
- 1175 Park Avenue in the Park Avenue Historic District
- 1712 York Avenue adjacent to the Municipal Asphalt Plant individually designated on the National Register of Historic Places
- Joint Letter to City Officials from State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Assembly Member Alex Bores, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers, City Council Member Julie Menin, and United States Congressmember Jerrold Nadler about the LinkNYC 5G Towers - January 23, 2023
- Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine Letter to City Officials about the LinkNYC 5G Towers - January 16, 2023
- NYC Preservation Groups Joint Letter to City Officials about the LinkNYC 5G Towers - January 12, 2023
- FRIENDS Letter to City Officials about the LinkNYC 5G Towers - December 22, 2023
- City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers, New York City Council District 4, Letter to the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation about the LinkNYC 5G Towers - December 21, 2022
- Madison Avenue Business Improvement District Letter to the New York State Historic Preservation Office Regarding Section 106 Review of the LinkNYC 5G Towers - December 21, 2022
- Community Board 8 Resolution Requesting a Moratorium on the LinkNYC 5G Tower Program - December 20, 2022