NYC’s behemoth 5G towers haven’t undergone required reviews, FCC says, potentially jeopardizing construction – New York Daily News

The giant 5G towers that have popped up on sidewalks across the city to the chagrin of some New Yorkers were constructed without going through required historic preservation and environmental reviews, federal regulators recently concluded.

The Federal Communications Commission in a letter Thursday told CityBridge, a consortium of tech companies tapped by Mayor Adams’ administration to build the towers, that it did not undertake reviews mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act before starting work on the structures last summer.

Workers install a Link5G-transmitting smart pole which sits atop of a LinkNYC kiosk on July 7, 2022, in the Bronx, New York.

So far, 107 of the behemoth 32-foot towers have been built in the city, an Adams spokeswoman said Tuesday. The consortium is supposed to put up some 2,000 towers across all five boroughs by 2026 under an agreement with the city aimed at expanding public WiFi and 5G access — but the letter from the FCC suggests construction delays could be on the horizon.

The letter, which was obtained by the Daily News and has not been previously reported, states that every new 5G tower must undergo National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act reviews “to ensure compliance with commission rules.”

Such reviews are complex and can involve getting sign-offs from the New York State Historic Preservation Office and local tribal nations, in addition to the FCC, the letter notes.

Moreover, the letter says CityBridge should bring the dozens of already operational towers “into compliance by conducting a post-construction review.”

Workers install a Link5G-transmitting smart pole which sits atop of a LinkNYC kiosk on July 7, 2022, in the Bronx, New York.

An Adams spokeswoman said the letter does not mean the city has to bring the already operational towers offline. She referred further comment to Jack Sterne, a rep for CityBridge.

Sterne said the consortium is continuing to deploy new 5G towers despite the FCC letter. He would not say whether delays could be forthcoming as a result of the FCC intervention.

“We are committed to following local, state and federal regulations and are actively working with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure we’re building 5G infrastructure consistent with other cities across the country,” Sterne added.

An FEC spokesman would not comment other than to say that CityBridge should reach out directly to the commission with any questions about how to bring the towers into compliance.

The letter from the feds came on the heels of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) sending a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel earlier this month calling on her agency to conduct oversight of the new 5G towers.

Rep. Jerry Nadler attends a gathering at Arte Cafe on Aug. 23, 2022, in New York City.

Referring specifically to some of the protected areas where the city is planning to build towers, Nadler told Rosenworcel that the structures “will be out of context with the historic nature of these neighborhoods and will negatively affect the coherent streetscape” established by the 1965 New York City Landmarks Law.

The 32-foot structures are an expansion of the LinkNYC kiosk initiative launched under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.

The smaller kiosks have a 911 button, USB ports, a tablet, calling capabilities and advertising displays.

The new structures will have all that and also provide free, close-range Wi-Fi — as well as 5G technology equipped at the top that can reach enabled cellphones and other devices nearby.

The idea is that telecom firms could pay CityBridge to keep their 5G tech inside the towers, providing high-speed service to local customers.

The Adams administration has pledged to install most of the towers in areas with scant internet access.

Mayor Eric Adams speak during a press conference at City Hall Rotunda on April 19, 2023.

At a press conference this past summer unveiling the first tower built in the Bronx neighborhood of Morris Heights, Adams said: “These new LinkNYC 5G kiosks are going to finally help to close the digital divide and expand and improve mobile technology coverage all over this city.”

But many local stakeholders have panned the structures as hideous and questioned their usefulness.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a Democrat who represents a chunk of Manhattan’s West Side, commended Nadler on sending the letter to the feds and said she believes “more review is a good thing.”

“I think we should be taking a closer look at what’s being done. I think they are too big, and I don’t know that they are really an asset in all neighborhoods,” Brewer said Tuesday. “There’s two issues: They are tall and ugly. And number two, who uses these things?”

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