By Claire Walla
Held together by several sinewy steel poles and strapped down by long, heavy-duty cables, the cell tower atop the highest peak in Noyac looks like something from a space-age movie filmed in the 1950s—which happens to be the decade in which the long-standing tower was built.
But, provided the Southampton Town Planning Board approves of the plan at its next meeting on August 25, there’s a chance it might be eliminated from the skyline altogether. Noyac resident Myron Levine, whose 11-acre property includes the wiry imposition, has plans to replace the cell structure with a less-intrusive mono-pole, which he said would cause much less of an eye-sore in the sky.
While Levine is the first to admit the cell tower is ugly, it was an eyesore he was willing to overlook when he bought his home in the late 1980s. As Levine described it, the view from his home at the end of Brick Kiln Road was too good to pass up. He ultimately decided he would try to avoid looking west, where the cell tower invaded his view, and would instead focus his gaze north, a vantage point that looks right out over Noyac Bay.
This was the case until 2008, when the property on which the radio tower sits — and thus the tower itself — went up for sale. Cablevision had owned the tower since the early 80s and, up until 2008, was sharing its airwaves with Verizon (which began using the signal in 1991). When the cable company decided to give-up its ownership of the tower and sell the property on which it sat, Levine decided to buy.
“To me, it was important to buy the piece of land,” Levine said. “Because if I bought it, at least I would be able to control the property.”
As it stands, Verizon’s lease on the tower is up on December 31, 2011. At that point, Levine would be free to do with the land, and the cell tower, as he pleases — even take it down. However, such an undertaking would be expensive, and is likely to anger the cell-phone dependent population in Noyac, said Levine.
Instead, Levine said he contacted Verizon Wireless and put a plan in motion to have the wireless company itself pay to take down the current structure and replace it with the less-intrusive mono-pole, with one catch: the structures would be built at a different location on Levine’s property, at a lower elevation, six- to seven-hundred feet to the west of its current location.
“I negotiated with Verizon for two years [for the current plan], at my own expense,” Levine stated. “Finally, they agreed.”
Levine was lambasted by Dan’s Papers earlier this month for what the paper reported was a money-making scheme. (The paper has since retracted its statements and issued an apology.) While the property owner does stand to collect rental payments from the wireless company — in addition to payments from any other carrier that chooses to use the mono-pole (he said he has already been contacted by AT&T) — Levine contends this project was in no way spurred by a desire to make money.
“Not only would we be replacing an ugly thing, but the service [in the area] would be better,” Levine explained. The design of the mono-pole is such that up to five wireless carriers can be added to the structure, with no visual impact whatsoever. All the wires and cables are stored inside the pole. “It just looks like a tall flagpole,” Levine continued. (He insists no flags or banners will wave from the top of it.)
Plus, at the proposed location, the new tower would only rise 192 feet high, versus the current tower, which peaks at 228 feet.
“The goal is to make it inconspicuous,” he concluded. In the end, he added, “This is one of those unusual things that’s a win-win.”