On May 12, 2009, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a plan brought forward by Jon Cooper to build a cell phone tower at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. The tower would be constructed by a private communications company who would then make monthly payments to the County for use of the tower. The most optimistic estimates of the revenue to be generated by this project are between $60,000.00 and $150,000.00. A final approval by the Suffolk County Legislature is required.
An examination of the history of this project reveals that it grew out of the financial woes that threatened, and, by all accounts, continue to threaten, the existence of the museum. It was, in fact, a project to generate revenue. Thereafter, in all too typical a fashion, its promoter began to spin it as a project to address a “safety hazard.” Without very much empirical data we are asked to believe that first responders are confronted with a very serious communications problem in the Centerport community and that this tower will eliminate that problem. If the tower were truly needed for public emergency support then its use should be limited to such a purpose. The project proposed is entirely commercial. Any emergency service benefit is wholly serendipitous.
I, as a Suffolk County Legislator, would vote no to this project. Of primary importance is the fact that the venture is probably unlawful. Parkland cannot be used for private commercial purposes without State legislative approval. Although commercial entities can be employed to implement services associated with park activities, such as concession stands, the cell tower is not such a service.
On a philosophical basis, I find nothing attractive about it. Little is known about the health effects of microwave transmissions. Though, on the broad scale, we have come to accept such risks, placing such a potential hazard in our parks and recreational facilities where we invite our children to gather is one such risk, I and many others, are not willing to suffer. As a plan to raise revenue it falls far short of what would be needed to put the museum on a firm footing. Such hodge-podge financial planning is not what this community deserves. Though I agree that some form of public commercial compact will possibly be needed to rescue this important and treasured landmark, this deal is not the one. Such commercial compact would need to remain within the restrictions of the public trust in which the County holds this parkland and must be calculated to give the museum a healthy chance to survive.
Elizabeth C. Black
Candidate for Suffolk County Legislature 18th LD