Written by Joe Rizza and Katie Piacentini Friday, 12 February 2010 00:00
John and Ida Ferreira are longtime members of the Mineola community. They own the well-known “For Birds Only” store on Jericho Turnpike and have lived in their home on 13th Avenue in the village for the past 32 years.
However, recently they say, their quality of life has been disturbed by a loud noise emanating from equipment located on a Verizon facility, which borders the Mineola neighborhood where the Ferreiras and their neighbors live.
According to a petition against the noise circulated by the Ferreira’s to their neighbors, the noise is affecting the residents of 12th and 13th Avenues in Mineola and is coming from the equipment that was installed on the facility, which is located on Herricks Road.
The Ferreiras likened the noise, which they said would go off periodically during the day and night, to an airplane engine and would disturb their sleep at night.
John Ferreira brought the concern to Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins and the Mineola Village Board. However, the Verizon facility is located within the boundaries of Garden City.
Mayor Martins and Village Trustee Paul Cusato both visited the site to hear the noise. Mayor Martins then reached out to the village officials of Garden City and tried to arrange for the temporary air handlers, from which the noise was emanating, to be moved to permanent fixtures with insulation.
Mineola Village Attorney John Spellman said Mayor Martins reached out to the Garden City village officials and obtained the property file from Garden City and reviewed it. “There were temporary air handlers. These have been taken offline. One has been removed from the site. The other is on the site in case they have to get it plugged in at some time. The one they’ve kept on site has been enclosed in insulation. It’s there for emergency but it has to be hooked up. The sound-proofing has been installed. The three units located on the top of the building are now in full operation. There is going to be screening so that it’s aesthetically a little better looking for the residents. That will be done hopefully by mid-May,” Spellman said. “Our expectation is that this problem should be abated now and should only get better as they finish up the job.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, residents in the area were again disturbed by another noise coming from the Verizon location at around midnight. According to an official from the Village of Mineola, it was determined that the noise was coming from an emergency generator that is required by Verizon to be tested once per week, usually during the day.
John and Ida Ferreira and their neighbors maintain that the noise persists and appeared at the Village of Garden City meeting last week to voice their concerns to the Garden City mayor and trustees.
“I told the mayor [of Garden City] what you did against the people of 13th Avenue [in Mineola ], you would never do to the people of Garden City,” Mr. Ferreira said.
Trustee Cusato also appeared in front of the Garden City Village Board to support the residents of 12th and 13th Avenues. Said Cusato to the Garden City Village Board, “Mayor, the sound has been going on for months, not for a couple of days; I want you all to know that. I am kind of disappointed that you would let this happen,” he continued. “You never had the decency to tell the mayor of Mineola or the board or the residents in the area what was going on. It just appeared – and that’s not fair to the residents.”
Tommy Coyne, a Mineola resident who lives on 13th Avenue, said that his home is about 10 feet away from this plant and that the noise goes on and off all night between 2 and 4 a.m. “The noise at night is unbelievable – it’s like a space shuttle going off,” Coyne said. “We just want some answers. Why did Verizon get away with this? They have no respect for us. They shove it down our throats like this, right on the border of us.”
Coyne continued to question why this expansion was built up against their properties, instead of a location not adjacent to a residential area. “There’s a big sump across the street. A big sump – they could have built it there. But they put it right against our fence. And it’s a monstrous thing,” he said, asking the Garden City Village Board for answers and help with this problem.
While Garden City Mayor Robert Rothschild said they would do whatever they can at this point, he also said that this expansion went through the proper approval process for the village. “We will look into it,” he said. “We will try to get in contact again with Verizon and see what we can do for you.”
Dennis Walsh, who lives on Albertson Place in Mineola, said that Mineola Mayor Martins and Trustee Cusato went to this area at midnight due to complaints about the noise and that the police have also been back and forth. Walsh questioned why Verizon put the construction at the back of the building, which is right next to people’s properties, rather than on the front of the building at Herricks Road. “I do not believe that Garden City would have allowed this to occur on Cathedral or on any other residential street in Garden City,” Walsh said. “No one was ever notified from Mineola and I find that a little bit outrageous.”
Several residents from 13th Avenue complained about an extreme lack of sleep due to the noise at night. “With this noise I can’t sleep,” Ida Ferreira said. “I have been a healthy person up until now, but I am starting to get very sick.”
Another resident from 13th Avenue, Alicia Rodriguez, said she was confused about why Verizon was calling this project a renovation, when there have been whole new structures placed there, bordering on their fences. She said that she never even knew it was a Verizon building during the 24 years that she has lived there, because there was little to no activity in the building. “But now, it is a humongous monstrous thing, and now that they are telling us it is wireless relay systems – all of that is radiation. All of that is right in front of our noses,” Rodriguez said.
Michael Fillipon, Garden City Building Superintendent, said that the work that was proposed at the Verizon site was all within conformity to the zoning regulations in that zoning district and that there was nothing about this proposed work that triggered a public hearing, which in turn would trigger notification to adjoining owners. He also stated that anytime an alteration or change is made to the exterior of any building, no matter how minor it is, it has to go through Garden City’s Architectural Design & Review Board, which it did. Once approved by the Architectural Design & Review Board, the building department issues the building permit for the work to go forward and the village monitors the construction on an ongoing basis at certain phases of the work.
“At a point in time during this construction, when the new air handlers were going to be placed on the roof, they had no ability to provide the necessary heating, ventilating and cooling of the building, which is required for the very sensitive equipment that is contained in that building,” Fillipon said. “That necessitated them bringing in temporary units, which were connected to the building to provide that necessary air circulation. It was those temporary units which unfortunately resulted in a great deal of noise, which was on and off for a period of weeks.” Fillipon continued to say that one of these units has already been removed from the site and the second one has since been decommissioned. He also said that Garden City inspectors were over there on a regular basis, during the day and at night, but they did not determine that there was any unusual noise.
Fillipon also said that Verizon recently brought in an emergency generator, which is needed at critical facilities. Emergency generators need to be “exercised” on a periodic basis, he said, which creates a lot of noise. One of the persons working at this site decided that it would be less annoying if the generator was tested at night, which the board thought was strange. The board notified Verizon that in the future, it should only be tested at 11:00 in the morning.
The Garden City Village Board believes that the construction at this critical telecommunications site is nearing completion. The temporary units are gone, which they said were the original culprits of the noise. Once this construction is complete, the board believes that there will not be any ongoing, significant problems associated with the site.
Mineola residents still complained that it is not just the noise, but the building has become an eyesore. One resident from 13th Avenue stated that an 8,000 gallon tank was placed up against their fences just a day before the Garden City Board of Trustees meeting, and questioned how something like that could go along with zoning regulations. Mayor Rothschild said that they will check the drawings of the expansion plan to determine why a tank would be so close to a property line, but that it is possible it is only in a temporary position before it is put in its final position, or perhaps the tank will be buried in the ground.
Garden City Deputy Mayor Don Brudie said that a Certificate of Occupancy needs to be issued at the completion of this work, and that anything that doesn’t belong there, such as this tank possibly, will be required to be removed. “We’re not done with the building,” Brudie said. “We’re not even at the point where we are issuing the Certificate of Occupancy, so all of these things will be investigated before any Certificate of Occupancy is issued.”