Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Following Superstorm Sandy, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, right, has urged the top cell phone service carriers to build stronger cell towers and infrastructure throughout southern Queens and Rockaway that will withstand the impact of future storms and severe weather conditions. Photo courtesy Phil Goldfeder
A state assemblyman from southern Queens called out a handful of cellphone companies before Mother Nature did it first.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) penned a letter to some of the city’s biggest phone providers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, urging them to not only rebuild what Superstorm Sandy had obliterated, but to also build back stronger. He reminded the conglomerates of a time not too far in the past, when cell towers toppled to the ground and left southern Queens immobile for weeks.
“Our inability to communicate via cell phone, compounded the many issues brought on by Sandy,” Goldfeder. “Every company has a responsibility to their customers to invest in their infrastructure and towers to ensure that service will remain in place during our next potential disaster.”
The legislator has been taking steps towards better storm preparedness ever since the hurricane left most of his district in devastation and said shoring up the cell phone capabilities of his district were paramount to all other steps of recovery.
His letter invited the major phone companies to meet with his community and outline any upgrades they might have made. Goldfeder also requested that each company announce the changes they have made to prepare for future emergencies.
So far, Verizon and AT&T have returned Goldfeder’s invitation. Both companies said they would be working with Goldfeder to arrange a meet-up with community residents and outline specifically what they were doing to prepare for another storm on Sandy’s level.
“Verizon got back to me almost immediately,” Goldfeder said. “They welcomed the idea of coming out and speaking to the community in some sort of forum.”
Mobile and Sprint did not comment.
As for specific upgrades companies could make to prepare for another storm, Goldfeder said there were multiple routes they could take. He mentioned how Gov. Andrew Cuomo had set aside money in his executive budget to fund backup generators for New York gas stations in order to prevent another gas crisis similar to the one that followed Sandy.
“These companies should invest money into backup generators in the same way to make sure there is at least some service when we need it most,” he said. “All this does is justify the fact that there was a need for us to ask a question.”
But on a more obvious level, Goldfeder also said companies should find a way to invest more money into the actual infrastructure of cell phone towers so they could withstand higher winds and stronger storms.
“We cannot wait for another disaster to take action,” Goldfeder said. “Communication is vital during a disaster and I am strongly urging all cell phone service providers to learn from their mistakes and implement a more reliable system that can withstand future storms.”
A spokesman for Verizon said the company has been doing just that in the year since the storm and would outline some steps the provider has taken in a community forum with Goldfeder’s help.