Brooklyn Boro

New Link5G tower applications put on pause throughout NYC

Historic neighborhoods say looming, 32-foot towers don’t belong

July 14, 2023 Mary Frost
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CityBridge, the company installing thousands of giant Link5G towers throughout New York City, has “paused all new submissions” until the company can work out how to comply with the Federal 106 Review Process, according to an email sent out by the New York Landmarks Conservancy on Thursday.

In addition, the State Historic Preservation Office has also paused reviews of existing 5G submissions, Peg Breen, the Conservancy’s president, said in the letter.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act allows for public comment and an assessment of impact on historic districts and individual landmarks. The Conservancy credited the work of its organization and a coalition of other preservation groups for bringing about the pause.

A CityBridge spokesperson, however, told the Brooklyn Eagle that while new applications are on pause, the program itself is not, and the existing towers are fully operational. 

“Deploying a new Link5G smart pole is a multi-step process. While we are re-tooling how we submit certain Section 106 review documents to make it easier for other groups to collaborate with us, this is just one part of the process,” the spokesperson told the Eagle on Thursday.

Put simply: our work on Link5G continues and our commitment to deploying Link5G smart poles so New Yorkers have the infrastructure they need, especially in underserved communities, is unwavering,” he added.

Thousands of three-story towers in de Blasio deal

Under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, in partnership with CityBridge, released a plan in November 2022 to install from 2,000 to 3,000 of the 32-foot towers across the city to expand the city’s 5G infrastructure.

The towers are meant to bring equitable 5G telecommunications to neighborhoods across the city. However, while the city said the towers were to provide better service in underserved communities, they were initially slated to appear in well-served and historic neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and SoHo/NoHo.

The spokesperson told the Eagle that the first Link5G was actually in the South Bronx.

“In addition 107 have been installed to date and none are on the Upper East Side or SoHo/NoHo,” he said. The New York City Office of Technology & Innovation, however, had originally proposed 18 new UES 5G towers sites.  The city “dialed back” these plans after an uproar, reports.

The sheer size and looming aspect of the towers shocked many residents. Some neighborhoods and community boards, including Brooklyn’s CB9, petitioned against the towers for reasons of appearance, privacy and health concerns. 

On April 12, Rep. Jerry Nadler wrote to the FCC asking the agency to invoke the federal process. 

“On its face, the proposed design and large footprint of these 32-foot-tall towers will be out of context with the historic nature of these neighborhoods and will negatively affect the coherent streetscape of the district that New York City has worked so hard to maintain since the establishment of the groundbreaking New York City Landmarks in 1965,” Nadler wrote.

The FCC said in an April 20 letter (reported by THE CITY) that the agency expected that “CityBridge will comply with these rules before constructing additional Link5G tower kiosk facilities.”

This 5G tower was recently installed near Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Preservation groups ask for maps and instructions 

The consortium of preservation organizations — including the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, Municipal Arts Society, CIVITAS, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, LANDMARK WEST! and Save Gansevoort, among others — wrote to the FCC and other federal agencies on July 6 listing “significant” issues with the tower approval process.

We asked for a comprehensive map and photos that would allow us to assess the impact on the city, let alone on individual historic districts. We also asked for an Environmental Assessment of these installations and clear instructions for anyone who wishes to be a consulting party,” the consortium said.   

The consortium added that among other issues, “Fundamentally, there has been no coherent effort to inform consulting parties of how the review process is structured and how to participate in that process.”

In a reply to the consortium in a Tuesday, July 11 letter, CityBridge President Rob Sokota said that the company “takes seriously” their concerns and “simply need time to work with regulators to adopt appropriate processes to remediate those concerns. 

“This letter is intended to assure you that we currently are in the process of addressing with New York City, New York state, and federal regulators the various concerns that you raised in your letter and that the NY SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office] has brought to our attention in its letter … In the interim, we have paused all new submissions to NY SHPO under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and we understand that the NY SHPO is pausing its review of existing Section 106 submissions. We expect to provide you with guidance within one month about the new procedures that we presently are coordinating with the regulators,” Sokota wrote.


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