New York’s 5G Dilemma: Navigating the Future of Urban Connectivity and Public Spaces

We explore the introduction of Link5G towers in NYC and the resulting public outcry. Learn about the technological advancements promised by 5G, the city’s rationale for these 35-foot structures, and the concerns over their impact on historic neighborhoods and the urban landscape. Engage with the complex interplay between progress and preservation in the city’s streets.

We talk to Matt Butcher a licensed electrical engineer in the telecom space, Andrew Berman the Executive Director of Village Preservation, from Carnegie Hill Neighbors Executive Director Joanna Cawley, and historical preservationist Simeon Bankoff.



Show notes & links

Companion episodes

Episode key takeaways

  • Introduction of Link5G Towers: The episode discusses the introduction of Link5G towers in New York City, larger cousins to the existing Link NYC kiosks, intended to enhance 5G connectivity across the city.
  • Public Concerns and Aesthetics: There is significant public concern regarding the size and design of these towers, with critics arguing they are imposing and clash with the city’s aesthetic, particularly in historic districts.
  • Technology and Infrastructure: The discussion highlights the technical aspects of 5G technology, emphasizing its capacity for faster data transmission and the engineering considerations that dictate the size and structure of the towers.
  • City’s Approach and Community Reaction: The city’s process of implementing these towers has faced criticism for lack of public engagement and transparency, with many community boards and preservation groups opposing the installations.
  • Historical and Cultural Impact: Concerns are raised about the impact of the towers on historic sites and the overall visual landscape of the city, with suggestions that alternatives could be more discreet and contextually appropriate.
  • Financial and Practical Considerations: The city defends the project by highlighting the financial benefits and the need for improved 5G infrastructure to meet future demand, while critics question the necessity and location choices for the towers.
  • Design and Planning Critiques: There is a call for better design integration and planning, with examples from other cities that have managed to incorporate similar infrastructure more seamlessly into the urban environment.
  • Advertisement and Commercial Aspect: The role of these towers as platforms for digital advertising is debated, with concerns about the visual and psychological impact on the cityscape.
  • Community Engagement and Process: The podcast advocates for more meaningful community engagement and a more transparent decision-making process in the deployment of new technology infrastructure in public spaces.
  • Future of Urban Space and Technology Integration: The broader discussion reflects on how New York City, and cities in general, can balance technological advancement with preserving the character and functionality of public spaces.

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Guest Bios

Matthew Butcher

Principal of Sublight Engineering, has over 30 years of experience as an electrical engineer with practice areas of radio frequency (RF), electrical, and computer engineering. His RF work includes human exposure assessment; wireless network design; and interference assessment and mitigation.

Measuring, modeling, providing guidance on, and developing standards related to human exposure to RF is a primary focus of Sublight Engineering. Since 2000 Mr. Butcher has been working with industry, government, workers, and the public on this topic.

As a Senior Member of the IEEE and the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES) Mr. Butcher helps develop the C95 standards for the safe use of electromagnetic energy. He is the co-chair of (SC1) Techniques, Procedures, & Instrumentation, responsible for C95.3 – IEEE Recommended Practice for Measurements and Computations of Electric, Magnetic, and Electromagnetic Fields with Respect to Human Exposure to Such Fields, 0 Hz to 300 GHz.


Andrew Berman

Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Andrew is a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx, where he attended New York City public schools and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Wesleyan University, and has lived and worked on the West Side and in Lower Manhattan for more than twenty years.

Since 2002 he has been the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has become the largest neighborhood preservation organization in New York City. During his tenure, GVSHP has secured groundbreaking landmarking and neighborhood zoning protections in the Meatpacking District, along the Greenwich Village waterfront, and in the South and East Village. He has helped lead the charge against development plans by
Donald Trump and NYU.


Joanna Cawley

Joanna Cawley is Executive Director at Carnegie Hill Neighbors (“CHN”), a historic preservation organization maintaining architectural integrity and historic character in Carnegie Hill, with volunteer help on preservation advocacy, quality of life programming, and work based training programs. A grassroots-style community leader, Joanna liaises with DOT, DPR, NYPD, DOHMH, DYCD, and SBS, to build capacity in Carnegie Hill, and along the abutting boundary with Yorkville on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Simeon Bankoff

Simeon Bankoff is a consultant specializing in historic preservation concerns and organizational strategies. He has been active in numerous community-based preservation activities in New York City and beyond. His clients have included Save Harlem Now!, the Center at West Park, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, the View Carre Property Owners and Residents Association among others. Mr. Bankoff previously served as the Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC), the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods from 2000 through 2021.

“People will often react to the new and the foreign with fear or concern or sort of envisioning a worst case scenario. Sometimes there are reasonable concerns that are in there. That can be addressed and integrated into the planning, to actually make it better, , make it a more perfect, , system.”


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Transcript

Pull quote

[00:00:00]

Simeon Bankoff: The city of New York is a very peculiar version of how it looks at our public spaces and asking for a cohesive view is probably too much, but it is at least an aspirational goal.

This is not happening in this case. What what is being imposed are these enormous cell phone sidewalk towers, and there isn’t even a discussion of co location. There isn’t a discussion of alternative design solutions such as small cells on top of existing infrastructure. There’s a lot of stuff on the streets already that the city owns or that is licensed out that could be used to satisfy this need.

Intro

Journey With Purpose: We put a lot of things on our sidewalks. They have a fancy name called street furniture, and it’s one of my slight obsessions. I have a whole boring website called typology. city which catalogs what we put on our streets and sidewalks. in the last few years, a new [00:01:00] entrant has captured people’s surprise and the opposition of many neighborhood groups.

I’m speaking about the new Link 5G towers, the bigger cousin to the existing Link NYC kiosks you might see across New York City. They were originally designed to replace telephone booths, which have basically disappeared from our streets. This is Journey with Purpose episode 18. I’m your host, Randy Plemel. First things first, we are going to figure out what is 5G. So I turned to licensed electrical engineer and friend of the pod, Matt Butcher for answers. Matt, tell us a little bit about what 5G is.

What is 5g?

Matt Butcher: My name is Matt Butcher. I’m an engineer and I, operate a business called SubLight Engineering. I’m based in Arlington, Virginia.

5G is just the fifth generation of the cellular telephone system. The first generation was analog, the second generation was digital, and third, fourth, and fifth are [00:02:00] just more advances in technology, modulation schemes, and also in the frequencies that are available for use for telecommunication.

Journey With Purpose: can you help us understand what the promise of 5G is?

Matt Butcher: Well, the promise in 5G , is to answer some issues that have existed with the earlier technologies and being able to provide more data and faster. So one of the big things in 5G is to reduce the amount of, response time. So how quickly a packet of data goes out and back through the network. So it’s more capacity handling more data and faster response. So one of the new features or technologies that’s implemented in the networks is the ability to have antennas that direct energy towards the users. And what this lets you do is Use less energy in total. It actually reduces the overall [00:03:00] exposure in that the energy is only directed in a certain area and only directed , when there’s demand in that area.

About Link5g

Journey With Purpose: Now that we know what 5G is, let’s learn about link 5G. Now I made multiple requests for comment to both the city and t o CityBridge which is the company which fabricates installs and runs the link system in New York city and all declined interviews. I don’t mind. We’re a small fish. So I dug up a presentation to the New York City council that happened in June of 2023, by the city’s head of franchise agreements with the office of technology innovation who oversees the franchise agreement with city bridge. For the city of New York. So this is what they had to say.

Brett Sikoff: My name is Brett Sykoff, Executive Director of Franchise Administration at the Office of Technology and Innovation for OTI 5G, or the fifth generation wireless network, will become the prevalent means of connecting to cellular data for mobile phone customers. [00:04:00] With more and more New Yorkers relying on their mobile devices for day to day tasks, And for many as their only means to connect to the internet while at home We must keep up with the current and future demand for the service The link 5g program delivers this in a novel way The city has a franchise agreement that enables city bridge to build kiosks that house 5g equipment along the city’s rights of way in exchange The city benefits by enabling the expansion of 5g connectivity free public WiFi, and a wide range of other community benefits available to New Yorkers and visitors, all while generating revenue from the program.

LinkNYC does not, and has never, cost the city money. In fact, it has generated over 115 million to the city over the course of the franchise, and continues to be a steady source of revenue. Over the past seven years, LinkNYC has become an invaluable resource to New York City residents and visitors alike.

The program currently supports over 13 million Wi Fi subscribers, [00:05:00] over 5 million phone calls a year, 30, 000 yearly connections to social services, and 2, 200 community organizations have received free or discounted advertisements on the links.

What’s the problem?

Journey With Purpose: So what’s the big problem? Everybody loves free things. 5G is faster, and if we can provide more people with free internet and free wireless, that’s a win, right? Well, you must not know many New Yorkers because plenty of people have a problem with Link 5G. Here’s Andrew Berman of Village Preservation, who has a few words about Link 5G.

Andrew, welcome to the show. Tell us about Link 5G.

Describe the Link 5g

Andrew Berman: So the city of New York is working to site what will eventually be hundreds if not thousands of these, , 32 foot tall metallic 5G towers all across the city. They’re beginning the process of rolling that out with a small fraction of them first, which are appearing in clumps in different parts of the city. One of those [00:06:00] clumps is, the border of the West Village and the meat packing district. There’s another clump up on the Upper East Side, SoHo, and various places throughout the city. These towers, if you’ve seen them are completely alien looking as tall as a three story building, they literally look like a spaceship kind of dropped them there.

We still haven’t gotten particularly good answers from the city or the provider about why this way of doing it is best, whether the design couldn’t be more, discreet, contextual, et cetera, whether or not they couldn’t just be added to existing infrastructure, in a lot of cases, whether the locations being picked really makes sense in terms of fulfilling that need, or they’re really about maximizing profit, whether or not it makes sense in terms of longer term planning.

Design Tradeoffs

Journey With Purpose: Okay, let’s stop right there. I too wondered why these towers became so big. So I looked up the original [00:07:00] proposals to the city and noted that instead of one small antenna bay, The link 5G towers are actually five antennas in one. So we went back to Matt, the engineer to teach us about the different trade offs cities are making to provide 5G service.

So Matt, can you give us an idea of why these link 5G towers might be so big and so tall? And why can’t we just have smaller sites?

Matt Butcher: The reason that the city is promoting these multi tenant or multi operator facilities is to reduce the number of installations that have to happen, and this has been a process that’s, that’s been going on since , maybe the second generation of cellular telephony. It didn’t make sense to have each individual operator put their own, sets of facilities. that have a similar support infrastructure. That is aesthetically unpleasing. The reason that municipalities push these multi operator facilities is to [00:08:00] reduce the amount of visual, impact of the infrastructure. Because of the physics of the size of the wavelength and the frequency, you need, uh, Antennas of a certain size to be efficient. So at the millimeter wave, they’re tiny, tiny wavelengths, , and you can get by with a relatively smaller antenna, but at 900 megahertz, physically you need a bigger antenna.

So The operators are supporting those different frequencies in an urban environment. You don’t use as many as the lower frequencies because in the higher frequencies , there’s more bandwidth and you can have more capacity and you don’t need to go as far as you did with the lower frequencies.

The range of frequencies requires some space and that’s why, the infrastructure has, got some size. And the other thing is to make sure that the operators don’t interfere with each other, they need to be stacked vertically. That’s an engineering trade off to make sure that they don’t have any sort of interference among themselves because they’re [00:09:00] stacked right next to each other.

Journey With Purpose: Okay, back to Andrew from Village Preservation. Andrew, besides height, what are your concerns about Link 5G?

Andrew Berman: How long is this particular system going to last and when will we be moving on to 6G and have some other need that will make these obsolete? There is also the issue that, we’ve been particularly focused on because we are an organization that focuses on historic preservation, these are supposed to be reviewed to make sure that certainly in areas of the city that are designated historic districts or near individual landmarks, that these structures don’t negatively impact those historic resources, which is also a public good and public benefit.

Historic Sites argument

Journey With Purpose: it’s good to step in here and talk about the historic districts and sites in New York. All of this goes back to the demolition of Penn station in 1963. Two years later, after that, the city created the New York city landmarks preservation commission, the LPC, which is charged with protecting New York city sites and buildings, which [00:10:00] are either architecturally significant, they have historic value or they’re culturally significant . And they also create historic districts, which is a set of buildings in area. And then they regulate them after designation. There are more than 37,900 landmark properties and 156 historic districts throughout all five boroughs. Okay, so now that you got that, it’s a lot of buildings and a lot of districts. Andrew, can you tell us more about historic districts and what your concern is about Link 5G in those districts?

Andrew Berman: Historic, sites that are designated historic resources, whether it’s by the city, the state or the federal government, , have some particular value to the public at large. They, , are an important part of our history. They tell an important part of our story. They’re architecturally or culturally significant.

And in many cases, having this huge metallic 32 foot tall tower in front of them, detracts from that, in some cases, we’re looking at putting these giant metal [00:11:00] towers in front of, , 200 year old buildings that are actually smaller than the tower themselves. , so it certainly impacts the way in which the, public would appreciate or understand what are designated city landmarks, state landmarks, federal landmarks.

Journey With Purpose: So part of the objection seems to be an aesthetic one with the installations clashing with the existing historic fabric. On this note, I spoke with two members of Carnegie Hill neighbors. Welcome to the pod. Please introduce yourselves.

Joanna Cawley: Hi, I’m Joanna Cawley, and I’m executive director at Carnegie Hill Neighbors.

Simeon Bankoff: I’m Simeon Bankhoff. I’m a historic preservation consultant working with Carnegie Hill Neighbors.

Journey With Purpose: Thank you for joining us today. Joanna, can you speak a little bit about your objections to the link 5g towers

Joanna Cawley: When you see the design that we’ve been saddled with and you look around to other cities, why is it that we get, clunky, Casio calculator watch version.

When everybody else [00:12:00] seems to get a much more updated, sleek, thoughtfully designed version of how to provide these. essential services.

Simeon Bankoff: Not to be glib about it, but this specific design looks straight out of a 1970s science fiction film. it’s embarrassing. You see things in California where they can make them very discreet. You see Strange stuff that kind of works like faux palm trees or in Arizona, they disguise them in cacti. in Europe, where they just do this better than we do, they hide them in church spires. And, we already have a very, very robust, telecom network. and It’s already very robust in New York, just from rooftop antennas, from little dishes that you don’t necessarily notice because it weaves into the natural part of the city.

Yes, there’s stuff on top of our buildings. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be, you know, New York’s [00:13:00] known for its water towers, but there are ways that you can thoughtfully incorporate this , if you put an antenna on top of the, traffic pole, no one would notice.

Joanna Cawley: That’s true. Boston has some incredibly beautiful, relatively speaking, it’s still cell telecom infrastructure, but looking through the lens of our, massive Q tip design, there are some really beautiful examples in Boston. Of kind of Bishop’s crook style with a illumination device on the same piece of furniture. So there are so many other ways to do it.

Simeon Bankoff: And to bring it to the aesthetic point of view and the visual point of view, many of these new insertions are really armatures for advertisements. And what you have is a sense of a real reversal of the sort of scenic aesthetic [00:14:00] regulations of the early 20th century, where there are anti billboard regulations because our ancestors saw what was going on and said, we don’t want this.

This is not the world we want to live in where you walk out of your door and you’re confronted by a giant shaving cream ad. Instead they said, this is not all right. However, the fact is that public pay telephones basically are large advertisements. The link kiosks are large advertisements.

The link five G towers can be and will be large advertisements in some circumstances, and as these things as technology moves forward and you suddenly have instead of static images, you start to have moving images, you’ve got video screens going on. To use a cliche, we become a kind of Blade Runner dystopia. And, that does have an effect on people’s mental wellbeing. I’m not saying that [00:15:00] we need to live in a serene Zen garden kind of situation, but the visual cacophony of this unplanned, attention drawing activity does have a blighting effect .

Journey With Purpose: Of the 2,138 current link installations, 113 are 5g towers and 86 percent of those towers have advertising screens. I wanted to understand how my guest would suggest balancing providing a much needed service with where they should be located. Again, here’s Andrew of Village Preservation.

Balancing where to place this

Andrew Berman: there’s no 100 percent perfect answer to, how you balance these things out. , we obviously advocate very strongly for ensuring that, historically significant parts of our neighborhood are preserved and protected. But under any circumstances, that doesn’t mean that you can’t allow any kind of change to happen uh,, because a lot of that is, , not only necessary, but [00:16:00] desirable. So how do you balance them? That brings up these questions of, does it have to be a 32 foot tall, metallic tower? Does it have to be on this exact spot? Could it be a block or so further away? And less impactful, but equally effective.

Could it be attached to a lamppost instead? Does there have to be 50 in this area? Could you not, serve the need just as well by having 20 in this area? These are all questions that I think need to be answered, which really haven’t been provided. We’re certainly not arguing that 5G service is not necessary or needed. Nor are we saying, well, it’s needed, but none of the infrastructure should be in our area. But it needs to be done smartly and wisely. And those kinds of considerations seem to be, thus far fairly absent from the process.

Journey With Purpose: Simeon, could you speak a little bit about the process and the reaction from the city’s community boards about this?

Simeon Bankoff: In the Anemic community [00:17:00] engagement that the franchisee, had done every community board that they engaged with voted against it.

Joanna Cawley: 16 community boards were dead set against this plan by our count. That’s right, Simeon.

Simeon Bankoff: This is a situation where there is immense community concern. There is immense community, consternation not about increased 5G, not about free Wi Fi. Everybody thinks that’s a fine idea, and no one is against it. It’s just these monstrous Ill designed, off the rack, one size fits all things that are popping out in front of people’s houses.

What about CitiBikes

Journey With Purpose: In a sense, we’ve seen this all before. Under mayor Mike Bloomberg there were three major actions that very similar to this. The first one was the smoking ban. When people were worried that no one would go to restaurants and bars again. There is the pedestrianization of [00:18:00] times square and there is worried that traffic wouldn’t increase And it hasn’t And the introduction of city bike, which is a bike share system that has docks that you can put on streets or sidewalks and many, neighborhood associations and community boards fought the placement of these bike share docks throughout the city. But we’ve had city bike for the last 10 years and they’ve kind of melted into the always was mental model. I asked Andrew from village preservation, how similar or unique link 5g is to city bike.

Andrew Berman: Well, I think there’s some things that are similar and some things that are different. I will say this about the city bike docks. What’s certainly similar is that in those cases, I definitely think there were instances where as opposed to citing it it exactly where they put it. Some of them could have been moved and in some cases were moved a few feet, a few yards, a block, what have you, so that it didn’t have, some of the impacts that they had.

The city [00:19:00] bikes, which I think are incredibly important program and a great thing to introduce to the city. The way they’re currently set up, when they’re all full, they often create this very long wall, which can sometimes be yards long, that is impenetrable to the pedestrian, which, even when cars are parked, typically you can get in between cars to sort of get in or out.

Again, there was a design issue. Sort of ensured that every five or six feet there was even when it was full a gap so that people could move through it that might have made the design a little bit better. And that spoke to what I think were some of the concerns that people raised.

And I think that, people will often react to the new and the foreign with fear or concern or sort of envisioning a worst case scenario. Sometimes there are reasonable concerns that are in there. That can be addressed and integrated into the planning, to actually make it better, make it a more perfect, system.

Unorchestrated Street Furniture

Journey With Purpose: Fair point. I would also note that cars [00:20:00] also make a pretty impenetrable wall the curbside, but I think that’s a fair, fair characterization. Joanna, I’d love to get your view on how dealing with link 5g might be similar or not to city bikes.

Joanna Cawley: In terms of city bikes and access to the curb for pedestrians, for deliveries, the reasons that we all love living in New York, that , it’s not a car culture. You need to use your sidewalks and you need to be able to navigate and negotiate around and so many of these, , purported enhancements improvements to our public realm that are coming up now more than ever post pandemic, are all, theoretically good ideas. for example, trash containerization. more city bikes, all of these things are really important, especially, now we have a work from home culture where you’re going to need technology in different areas.

We can’t have towers in addition to the existing street [00:21:00] furniture. I mean, if you look on every city block, there are at least six lampposts, you know, three per per side. in addition to this new tower, some of them in commercial districts will be nearly 30 inches wide in diameter.

These pose a grave risk to, people with mobility issues in Carnegie Hill, where a neighborhood of very young and very old people. so lots of mobility devices, walkers, but also strollers, scooters, little kids on bikes. /it’s too much. People are not going to be able to navigate around and people aren’t going to be happy. It’s not, it’s not going to be a good place to be. You know, we’re destroying the greatest place. Part of New York City. It’s a pedestrian city and it’s it’s becoming unmanageable in that way. We want to work towards a goal that can incorporate all these new technologies and enhancements, but that is not at the expense of the people.

An issue of coordination

Journey With Purpose: I feel [00:22:00] like these arguments are really about coordinating all the different bits and bobs we think are useful. And how we put them on an already constrained space, the sidewalk in the street. Now, New York used to have very wide sidewalks. And in fact, the whole road was a place to walk. Then the car came in and we took space away from people and reallocated it to cars. In fact, there was no allowed overnight parking for a long time. And that was just recently changed in the fifties. Park Avenue splits Carnegie hill into two sides and a hundred years ago, it’s sidewalks were almost twice as wide. Same with Madison Avenue. I asked Simeon of Carnegie Hill neighbors, who is also historian about past examples of how New York city has integrated new technologies.

Simeon Bankoff: The other day someone was talking to me about, , the evolution of the city and they said, you know, we are no longer a city of horses. We’re a city of cars, and that’s a very good way of looking at it. The actual [00:23:00] transformation in our transportation systems affects the physical realm, and that’s a good thing because if we were built for a city of horses and we had cars, we’d have a lot of problems. However, as we are now becoming a wireless city, There should be a good process that would guide us into that future. And that process has not really been activated to the extent that it can and should be. because This has happened with the introduction of streetlamps. This is not a new process. And in fact, New York city has a process that looks at the design of things in the public space.

That’s the public design commission. If you actually listen to the public design commissioners looking at this, they were unhappy with this design. The public design commission has existed since the 19th century. And, there is a process that not perfect perhaps where the community can weigh in, [00:24:00] artists can weigh in about new investment in our public realm. In fact, even the Cobra headlamps that we have were originally designed by Donald Deskey. Unfortunately the design degraded over time. And kind of ones that we have lampus happen. what happened with this is that these were brought forward in a very, very limited design way. It almost feels like they had the design sitting in a warehouse somewhere. You know, I really do believe that the administration has the citizens best interest in mind. But design is always the last thing. they have a service they want to provide. They have a resource they want to show and then they just sort of shove it in.

You saw with the rain catchers, the rain gardens on the city streets, the design of them is fine, except for they didn’t really work out how it could be cited [00:25:00] properly and half of those things don’t work. They don’t actually catch wastewater. the city bikes were another example where they just imposed on restaurants, imposed on people’s houses, and there was a lot of anger about that. And, and many of them had to get moved just so that people could get their garbage picked up just so that restaurants could get deliveries done.

Community Engagement

Journey With Purpose: I want to cut in here again and try to correct the record here. The amount of public outreach and community board discussion about the siting of city bike docks was extensive with many lawsuits filed and most of them being settled in the city’s favor. There certainly was a ton of anger, but as Pretty much melted away as people got used to city bikes and the odd dock here and there that needed to be moved has been moved.

But on the topic of community engagement, I want to get the city’s point of view. So let’s go back to that 2023 city council meeting where Brett from the city [00:26:00] speaks about the engagement process.

Brett Sikoff: my name is Brett Sykoff, Executive Director of Franchise Administration at the Office of Technology and Innovation for OTI. Link 5G has continuously gone through a robust public review process. The Link 5G design, for example, was approved by the Public Design Commission after an 18 month process that included several opportunities for public comment.

As of last fall, OTI has expanded its engagement for proposed locations by notifying relevant stakeholders and holding 60 day public comment periods. Over the past several months, OTI and CityBridge have proposed 198 new sites in 36 community districts, attended approximately 20 community meetings, and discussed sites with dozens of elected officials and local stakeholders. In addition to ensuring that every new proposed kiosk meets dozens of siting criteria, OTI carefully considers public feedback received during the comment period ahead of implementation. Linked 5G kiosks [00:27:00] are also subject to additional local, state, and federal governmental reviews before they can move forward.

Journey With Purpose: I wanted to hear from our guests what kind of process they would prefer in the future, since the march of technology and progress isn’t abating, so here’s Andrew Berman again of Village Preservation.

Process

Andrew Berman: I think that we need to see, Clear information about how necessary this size and design of structure is since as I said, in other cities, they’ve been done differently. There was really no discussion of it. Why is this design? Again, there needs to be this discussion of when, where, and why does it need to be this independent structure as opposed to something that’s just added to an existing structure. And a real discussion about how are the locations chosen. Why are they appearing in these clumps in some areas which seems to go against. What they’re claiming is the goal here, which is to have this accessible throughout the city. Certainly at [00:28:00] least right now, what they’re doing is they’re concentrating it in neighborhoods like the West Village, Soho, the Upper East Side and a few other neighborhoods and there needs to be clarity about exactly what this will do.

And what’s the trade off for providing this kind of service that’s free to the public? Only on the street and then pretty costly in your home, which is where most people will use it And who’s who’s paying the cost for that and who’s making the money off of that? So these are all questions that there really have not been clear answers to and I think that that ideally would be what the process would look like in terms of how the sighting and the choice of design would take place.

Andrew Berman: I think that the 5G towers will definitely have a huge impact throughout the city. And I [00:29:00] think it’s something that, Too few people really know about, , and that, the process really has not been one that’s really invited or engaged public participation or reflected public concerns or input. And I think that that’s definitely been a shortcoming of the process. I think that when you do things like this, it does make sense to try to integrate and hear from, because there’s things that local communities will know or understand about impacts that, looking at it from 50,000 feet on a citywide basis, you might. And these don’t have to be things that say this can’t happen at all.

This, means that the process has to be derailed or started over. But they are things that can certainly substantively affect the final product in ways that can make it much more compatible with local communities and the concerns that average New Yorkers would have.

Journey With Purpose: How about you, [00:30:00] Joanna and Simeon? What would be a better process?

Joanna Cawley: Public input, Community comment. those are supposed to be real things that are listened to and and taken into account. And, in this process, we have felt that there has been, not enough, outreach for one and documented, of what the public really feels and thinks about these. There’s a very troubling piecemeal attitude, that does not bode well for any kind of visual, comfort level, and it’s going to create a lot of resentment, a lot of, a lot of back and forth, and it’s going to be a huge time suck, and actually a lot of excess waste and expense on fighting over these things. If there was just some sort of meaningful conversation about how to look at all of this holistically, in our public realm, then that would be very heartening. possibly our new public realms czar, will [00:31:00] enter the conversation, with us on the towers.

Simeon Bankoff: the city of New York is a very peculiar version of how it looks at our public spaces and asking for a cohesive view is probably too much, but it is at least an aspirational goal.

This is not happening in this case. What what is being imposed are these enormous cell phone sidewalk towers, and there isn’t even a discussion of co location. There isn’t a discussion of alternative design solutions such as small cells on top of existing infrastructure. There’s a lot of stuff on the streets already that the city owns or that is licensed out that could be used to satisfy this need. This is a situation where we’re giving away public space. the franchisees are paying money to use public space and they will have that space for a very long time. Once these things go up, they will stay up [00:32:00] and they’re spending a lot of money to build these things and come on guys you can’t do better than this

Journey With Purpose: I think this last point is the strongest point link 5g critics are making the aesthetic and process. Ones are the weakest argument as both are pretty much in the eye of the beholder. Everyone’s going to want more engagement. Everyone feels like they weren’t consulted, but the strongest case is that by not coordinating co locating and stewarding the limited public space. The city is creating a durable imposition in the public realm in these 5G towers, which are much harder to move than the city bike docks. To me, that’s the failure here. Now it seems to me two solutions, both difficult would solve some of this problem. One, instituting a real public realm coordinator who can actually coordinate all the different pieces of [00:33:00] street furniture, infrastructure and affordances that we put on our public right of way, and actually have the skill and resources and the financial control to coordinate all of that. So that’s one. And then two, reallocating space away from cars and back to people. That way we don’t have to be fighting over limited space. Now, I personally think that we can reallocate more space to people, but still this coordination is an important step in making sure we use this limited space in both an efficient and equitable manner.

Outro

Journey With Purpose: So this episode was edited for clarity from multiple interviews.

And I want to thank our guests today, Andrew Berman from village preservation, which you can find them at villagepreservation.org. And Joanna Cawley and Simeon Bankoff from Carnegie Hill Neighbors, and you can find them at [00:34:00] carnegiehillneighbors.org

I think a lesson here is no matter how near or far you, you might agree with me, the city, city Bridge or with our guests today, please engage with your community and your city. You can do it with your community board, your council member, or with community organizations.

All views heard today don’t necessarily represent their employers, but you knew all that. If you liked this show, please do smash the like button. Give us some stars. Give us a review, share it with your neighbors and subscribe.

If you want to hear more episodes, please go to jwp.news. We wish you well, and we’ll see you on the internets. Good day.

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