Residents battle City Hall over 5G towers in Carnegie Hill

A battle has been unfolding as residents clash with City Hall over plans to install 5G sidewalk towers. While the city touts it as a stride toward internet expansion, local residents say they fear the impact on their cherished historic district.
"These towers are unnecessary in this neighborhood and also out of context and just plain ugly," said Joanna Cawley, the executive director of Carnegie Hill Neighbors.
Cawley's group vehemently opposes the city's intentions to install second-generation LinkNYC towers, designed to provide free 5G broadband Wi-Fi service. Despite their support for improved Wi-Fi access, they argue that the proposed 32-foot structures would compromise the aesthetics of this historical neighborhood and compromise architecture integrity.
"We would want something that fits within the character of the neighborhood to protect it as one of the greatest cities on earth," said Cawley.
Back in June of last year, Mayor Eric Adams announced the citywide implementation of these towers, emphasizing their essential role. "It’s something that we often take for granted, but the reality is too many people don’t have access to phone service and don't have access to the Wi-Fi," said Adams.
Opponents argue that the proposed towers will also encroach upon pedestrian sidewalks. The group has garnered support from elected officials, including Assembly Member Alex Bores. Bores produced a report suggesting alternatives, such as utilizing existing structures like light poles.
"Stackable solutions on existing street furniture," said Cawley.
City Bridge, the operator of the Link5G networks, responded to Bores' report, stating that adding radios to existing structures is already being implemented across the city. A spokesperson labeled the opposition as a "misguided attempt by a NIMBY group" and stressed that Link5G smart poles underwent a rigorous three-year public review process.
CityBridge maintains that numerous polls demonstrate public support for the towers and highlighted that 90% are planned for outside Manhattan. Cawley challenges the notion of a "Not In My Backyard" scenario, emphasizing the need to uphold regulations created by the city for historic districts.
"Why is it if you live in this neighborhood and you have to walk through rings of fire to get windows replaced or you're not allowed as a store to post signs in your window per historic regulations, why is it then the city who created those could come and put up these towers?" questions Cawley.
As the dispute continues, the community grapples with finding common ground between technological advancement and the preservation of their cherished historic surroundings.