NYC's Link5G Towers Face Neighborhood Opposition

More than 2,000 32-foot towers are coming to New York City street corners to improve 5G connectivity throughout the city, and residents aren’t happy, citing incompatible design and visual distraction as a threat to safety.

2 minute read

June 11, 2024, 5:00 AM PDT

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon

Large silver pole on street corner in LA, nearly same height as surrounding three-story buildings.

A 32-foot 5G LinkNYC "smart pole" stands on the corner of Pitkin Avenue in New York City. | LinkNYC / LinkNYC

Over the past two years, 150, 32-foot-tall 5G towers have popped up around New York City, as part of the city’s effort to upgrade its wireless service. The initiative was announced back in 2014 and touted as one of the largest and most ambitious WiFi networks in the world. The large “smart poles” have drawn strong reaction from residents in some neighborhoods, particularly historic districts, where they say the futuristic silver and gray aesthetic, transmitter-covered tops, and even video displays stick out like sore thumbs. “At least 16 community boards across the city — representing approximately two million New Yorkers — have voiced concerns about the 5G tower rollout,” writes Dodai Stewart in a New York Times article. “[T]he state’s Historic Preservation Office recently warned that tall towers would have an adverse effect on landmark blocks in the Greenwich Village Historic District,” saying the “incompatible design” of the poles would “create a visual distraction.”

City representatives say they will not be deterred by NIMBYism, but with another 2,000 towers slated for installation citywide, the pushback will likely grow. “Many of the locations of Link5G towers (as well as LinkNYC Wi-Fi kiosks, which do not have towers) were previously home to public pay phones,” which officials say took up much more space. Nick Colivin, the chief executive of LinkNYC, told the New York Times that the mission of LinkNYC and the 5G program is to provide digital connectivity for free to everyone in the city, which he contends is critical for people to be able to “participate in the economy, apply for jobs, interact with the government, pay a parking ticket,” and more. But he knows what he’s up against, Stewart writes. “It’s always hard, in a city like New York, to change things,” he told her.

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