Nearly All UES 5G Towers Cancelled After Historic Preservation Review

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — From 5G to 1G.

A recent ruling by the state’s Historic Preservation Office means that only one of the 18 proposed LinkNYC 5G towers could remain as an active possibility, according to officials and a map built by the LinkNYC vendor, CityBridge.

The kiboshed towers met their demise through a mix of site-specific compatibility issues and failing a federally mandated historic preservation review on the impact the gigantic 5G transmission poles — conceived as part of a city plan to expand internet access across the Big Apple —would have on the Upper East Side’s historic districts.

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Recently the New York State Historic Preservation Office ruled that a tower at 1190 Madison Ave., near East 87th Street, should be relocated or redesigned to “be compatible in its historic setting,” according to a spokesperson.

CityBridge — City Hall’s partner in the venture — told Patch that no final determination has been made yet in regards to the 1190 Madison Ave. site, despite the New York State Historic Preservation Office request following the tower site’s Section 106 review.

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If the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation accepts the recommendation, then that leaves just one lonely tower remaining as proposed, according to the CityBridge LinkNYC 5G tower map, which shows only 11 locations marked on the Upper East Side — seven fewer than the proposed 18 — and all but two labeled as in “remediation.”

Nearly all neighborhood elected officials were happy to hear that the last Carnegie Hill tower was circling the drain.

“Since the beginning, I have raised community concerns about the LinkNYC 5G towers being out of context with the surrounding neighborhood,” said City Council Member Keith Powers.

“I’m glad that the LinkNYC towers, which generated tremendous pushback in Carnegie Hill, have all been delayed or cancelled,” said Assembly Member Alex Bores, who recently issued a report on how the city could better deploy 5G infrastructure in a more contextual manner — an effort that Powers noted he also supports.

“Each of these towers would only provide fast 5G coverage for a two block radius, so contrary to other claims, the effects are limited to the surrounding area,” said Bores, who had a career in computer science before entering public service.

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who wrote a letter to the FCC asking for the LinkNYC 5G tower rollout to be paused back in April, said he “applauded this victory.”

“Today’s announcement reflects what we’ve known to be true all along— that Link5G towers are out of context with the historical nature of many of New York’s neighborhoods,” Nadler said to Patch.

Upper East Side Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, who has also long opposed the installation of the towers, said she “commended” the state agency’s recommendation regarding the final Carnegie Hill tower’s incompatibility “with the historic setting.”

Earlier this week, Seawright questioned Mayor Adams about “the unknown health and environmental impacts of 5G technology and the proliferation of towers in our neighborhoods during a budget hearing at the Capitol,” she said.

“The imposition of the installation of a 32-foot sidewalk cell tower in the middle of the residential historic neighborhood of Carnegie Hill, is damaging to the distinct sense of place which makes Carnegie Hill remarkable,” said Simeon Bankoff, a preservation consultant and former executive director of the Historic Districts Council.

Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for CityBridge, City Hall’s partner in LinkNYC, said that the tower cancellations are simply a sign of how well their community outreach process is working.

“When communities have feedback, we listen and explore alternatives,”Sterne said, adding that overall, New Yorkers are overwhelmingly in favor of expanded internet connectivity.

To that point, Bankoff, and Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the community group most vocally critical of the 5G towers, agrees with the ends, just not the means.

“Expanded access to 5G — which is great — can be done in a way that doesn’t damage the environment,” Bankoff said.

“New York City deserves better connectivity,” said Joanna Cawley, executive director of Carnegie Hill Neighbors, “but massive, out-of-scale, and unnecessary sidewalk cell towers were never the way forward in historic districts like ours.”

“We’re proud to have successfully made that case,” Cawley added. “When Carnegie Hill comes together to protect our neighborhood, nothing can stop us.”

Back in December 2022, the city presented their proposal to install 18 of the enormous sidewalk towers on the Upper East Side.

That presentation was almost immediately met with fierce opposition, most notably from Carnegie Hill Neighbors.

Half of the proposed towers were originally situated in Carnegie Hill.

Since then, nearly all of the sites have been eliminated.

According to CityBridge, seven were dropped for “various reasons.” According to insiders, those reasons were because of “site-specific” reasons, like sidewalk space, vaulted sidewalks and other incompatible conditions.

Of the remaining, nine are in what CityBridge calls “remediation,” indicating that the group is exploring alternative sites due to community feedback — which means a tower may be in the future still.

The last remaining LinkNYC 5G tower not in remediation on the Upper East Side — aside from the recently un-recommended 1190 Madison Ave. — is at 1712 York Ave., just steps from Asphalt Green.

CityBridge did not reply to a request to give any reason as to why the nine towers entered remediation, including if any were nixed a result of a request stemming from a Section 106 review by the state’s Historic Preservation Office. They also did not respond to a request for a list of all active FCC permits for 5G towers on the Upper East Side.

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