If students were allowed to bring cellphones to school, the kids at PS 185 would have the best signal in town.
But that’s no consolation to parents and elected officials, who are furious over the unannounced Jan. 3 placement of a Verizon antenna tower atop a Ridge Boulevard building across the street from the school.
“This is new technology. When cigarettes first came out, doctors were on TV smoking them,” PS 185 parent Evans Kotsis told The Brooklyn Paper. “Now we know better.”
Kotsis, who has two children in the school, added, “We don’t want our kids to be guinea pigs in this.”
Cellphone towers have been a controversial issue in Bay Ridge for years, though there is no scientific proof that signals from their transmitters are harmful. Nonetheless, many residents are angry about a new antenna so close to a school.
“There was no form of communication with either the parents or the principal,” said Tressa Kabbez, co-president of PS185’s Parent Teacher Association. “We’re going to go after Verizon. We’re mobilizing parents in the school.”
So far, the mobilization is working.
“We’ve been inundated with calls,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10. Beckmann noted that two other schools — Adelphi Academy and the Dimitrios & Georgios Kaloidis School — are also a block away from the new antenna array at the corner of 87th Street.
On Monday, the board voted to send a letter protesting the tower placement.
It isn’t the first time the area has faced this issue.
“We were supposed to get a cellphone tower two years ago, right after the St. Anselm situation,” said Kabbez, a reference to the attempted installation of Sprint/Nextel transmitters across the street from the St. Anselm School on 83rd Street and Fourth Avenue, which was met with neighborhood protests that convinced the company to look for another site.
“We had a meeting and they told us they weren’t going to put one up. We didn’t realize they meant ‘For now,’” Kabbez continued.
And Bay Ridge should brace for at least four more cell towers in the near future, says Beckmann, including antenna arrays at 610 Ovington Ave., 8224 13th Ave., 319 94th St., and 7101 Shore Rd. That last address will be directly across from Xaverian HS.
Owners of buildings typically net $2,000 a month in rent from cellphone companies.
David Samberg, a spokesperson for Verizon, said that the signal from the transmitters poses no risk and is only as strong as that of a radio.