Can you hear me now? We’re not sure if reception got any better, but the new cell phone tower near Beach 109th on Rockaway Beach Drive looks like it could connect you to Mars. Last week, demolition finally began at the site of the future Rockaway Beach Hotel, yet a new, rather large cell phone tower, placed in the street temporarily, is raising some eyebrows, and heads.
The old Dalton’s building started to come down as a new 100-plus foot cell tower arose above Rockaway Beach Drive near Beach 109th Street last week. The large structure caught nearby neighbors, business owners and passersby off guard. Chatter among social media groups included concerns about placing a cell phone tower so close to Waterside Children’s School. Yet a cell phone tower has been near the site for many years. The former cell phone tower, which was located in the parking lot of Dalton’s, was shorter and disguised to look like a flag pole, so some were not aware that a cell tower was there, but it was a major cause for delays in the Rockaway Beach Hotel project.
According to a project manager for JBS Project Management, the contractor behind the hotel project, T-Mobile, the carrier that owns the tower, refused to budge on moving it to a different location on the peninsula. Since construction couldn’t take place until the tower was dealt with, a compromise was made, resulting in a new tower being placed temporarily on the street on Rockaway Beach Drive.
Those on the block say the new tower was a surprise. Staff at nearby businesses including Boardwalk Bagel and Healy’s, said that they were never given a heads up about the tower, which initially caused Rockaway Beach Drive to be closed to traffic. “I went to turn down the block for work and was turned away. Nobody told us this would be happening and that parking would be taken away,” a Healy’s bartender said.
The project manager claims that the Department of Buildings and the Department of Transportation gave the okay on the placement. However, there were some initial issues. “DOT has inspected the location and issued a number of violations, and we are continuing to review the condition and are actively working with Community Board 14,” a DOT spokesperson said. The project manager said that they were aware of the issues, one of which included not leaving an 11-foot traffic lane open. As of Wednesday, December 20, the lane was opened up and traffic was being allowed through, with brief stops as construction was ongoing.
The cell phone tower is expected to remain in the street for at least 16 months as construction continues on the hotel. “Sixteen months is a long time,” the Healy’s staffer said.
The project manager is aware of the inconvenience. “As soon as the top floor is done, we’re going to put the tower back on the building and it’ll be out of the street. We didn’t want this either. It’s massive and tough to work around and we tried to get it relocated. This was the last hurdle we had to overcome to start construction. Our biggest goal is to accelerate this project as much as we can so we can get this off the street. We’re excited about the hotel because it’s such a cool thing coming here,” he said. The hotel could take anywhere from 18 to 30 months to be completed.
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