FRIENDS shares the concerns of many New Yorkers about the impact of the City’s plan to install 18, 32-foot tall Link5G towers in random clusters on the Upper East Side. Last month, FRIENDS sent a letter to public officials raising these concerns, which was amplified this week in a joint letter to the City on behalf of 8 preservation colleague groups.
Although we support the City's stated goals to expand wireless and cellular services, especially to underserved communities, the proposed sites do not serve that objective, and we are uncertain why the Upper East Side is one of the first neighborhoods selected for the initial roll-out of the new towers. The process, as it stands, appears to privilege the private franchise holder over the needs of the neighborhood, and the City has been slow to provide clarity in its outreach to the public.
We are concerned both about the location and uneven clustering of the proposed 5G towers, for example why 58% of all sites are on the Upper East Side and why in some cases there are several towers sited within a single block. The design of the 5G poles still also needs significant refinement. The current, bulky look of these structures, extending to 32 feet in height, is not appropriate within the context of historic residential areas, or the narrow sidewalks and lower scale buildings on Madison Avenue. Furthermore, given the proposed siting of towers adjacent to individual landmarks, and within Historic Districts, we believe that the Landmarks Preservation Commission should comment on both the location and design of the installations.
The outpouring of community concerns decrying the opaque process has been further amplified by strong statements from Council Member Keith Powers, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and most recently from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. The BP’s letter makes six specific recommendations from the City’s Office of Technology and Innovation, including a full review of the City’s 5G infrastructure programs and coordination with other existing public infrastructure, more and transparent information about the benefits of 5G and which cellular providers will be housed within each 5G tower, and design improvements to reduce visual impact.
For the full list of sites proposed on the UES, see here. Stay tuned for the latest updates as we await the response of city agencies.