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Woodbury, L.I. Residents Furious Over Cellphone Repeaters On Their Block

WOODBURY, Long Island, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Long Island residents have vowed to fight back, after two dozen cellphone repeaters were put up in front of their homes.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, the cellphone repeaters were put up legally, but without notice to homeowners.

The view from Denise Tufano's Woodbury, Long Island home abruptly changed last month, when the cellphone repeater suddenly appeared towering on her front lawn.

"I could not believe this was actually happening," Tufano said. "I said, how could the town permit this? How could they do this to us?"

Tufano and other Woodbury neighbors were fuming over the placement of the 22 cell repeaters for Verizon in front of homes. They are technically on public property, but they were mounted without notice or compensation.

"You couldn't give me $10 million for this, OK?" said Dr. David Burg of Woodbury. "There are potential health risks to these. They are aesthetically not pleasing. There's also the devaluation of our home."

The 5G technology enabled by the repeaters promises faster service, but the jury is out on constant exposure to ITS radio frequency radiation.

"A cellphone you use, you put down. A microwave you use, you stop," said Marc Herman, president of the Gates Ridge Civic Association. "This is constant bombardment and we don't know what is the long term effects."

And residents said their cell service was good enough as it was.

"Put them in a commercial area. We don't need it," said Vicki Kramer of Woodbury. "And you know what? We should have at least been asked. I don't think the health of my children is as important as my cell phone service."

When CBS2 asked the Town of Oyster Bay supervisor why the cellphone repeaters ended up on the residential block, he came to the protest and was peppered with residents' demands.

"They have no place in front of homes in residential neighborhoods," said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino.

But Saladino, who is new to the post, said the town's hands are tied by federal rules that cut local government out. He has now rescinded permits for more repeaters, and is calling for a federal health study.

Saladino vows to do everything in his power to have the repeaters taken down, and to prevent any more going up in front of homes.

Verizon issued a statement to CBS2 about the repeaters:

"More people are using more wireless devices to do more things in more places. In fact, the demand for wireless data services has nearly doubled over the last year, and is expected to grow 650 percent between 2013 and 2018.

"We're working to stay ahead of that growth with more fiber optics and small, low-powered antennas closer to where people need to connect. These antenna, sometimes known as small cells or microcells, are typically mounted on street lights or utility poles to bring wireless signals into areas that need better coverage or more capacity.

"According to CTIA, small cells and microcells have typical radio frequency exposure levels similar to baby monitors and microwave ovens. This represents significantly less than 1 percent of the FCC allowable exposure.

"Verizon Wireless follows all local, state and federal guidelines as we build our network."

Crown Castle International, which is installing the cell repeaters in the town, also issued a statement:

"Crown Castle is the nation's largest provider of wireless infrastructure. We design and operate network solutions to enhance broadband coverage and capacity. The technology in question is referred to as a small cell network, which is designed to provide a more targeted, specialized solution to provide the needed coverage and capacity. Unlike traditional towers, small cells are deployed on utility pole in the public right of way.

"Wireless devices today consume more and more data, due in large part to the capabilities and usefulness of the smartphone. While a mobile device may display full bars, calls can still drop and video streaming may not work properly. This happens when there is not enough network capacity to handle the volume of traffic in an area, at a particular time. Crown Castle's systems are designed to enable enhanced network performance and avoid such issues, improving the experience for the smartphone user.

"The recently constructed locations for our small cell network are not currently activated.

"Crown Castle fully complies with all FCC regulations addressing the safety of this technology and we have submitted a report demonstrating compliance to the Town. The wireless equipment to be used in the Town of Oyster Bay produces RF levels well below the FCC's permitted maximums."

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