back to article NY residents sue for $100m over phone masts

Residents are suing the Long Island town of Hempstead for allowing the installation of cell phone antennae, on the basis that it's lowering the value of their properties. The claim is not regarding the potential health risks, as has been the case before, but that the local authority has been negligent in preventing brown boxes …


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  1. The Indomitable Gall

    To be fair...

    To be fair, it is stupendously ugly in a retro-80s-pay-and-display-machine sort of way. Would it really hurt to put a bit of thought into an aesthetically less objectionable design?

  2. Edwin

    Base stations?

    Is it not possible that they see a way to compensate for the 'inevitable decline in property values' that the recession has brought the US?

    More amusingly: if they're suing their local governemnt, who do they think they're hurting?


  3. Martin Lyne

    We all know

    .. that it's much easier to sell a house that has no phone coverage. People want peace and quiet at home. Duh.

  4. gollux

    Reduced property value...

    by lack of services probably more like it.

    Funny how our problems with contentious people "overly worried about everyone else reducing their property values" in the neighborhood cleared up when most of them got foreclosed on in the last six months. This concern has nothing to do with neighbors keeping things clean and neat and usually is a sign that a "house flipper" has moved into the neighborhood, someone who has no wish to contribute to the community over the long term. And foreclosed properties do more to ruin our property values do, than little brown boxes on phone poles.

  5. John G Imrie

    Counter Claim

    I'd let them sue, as long as the town can claim any rise in price, as obviously it will be due to the enhanced desirability of living in an area with such good mobile coverage.

  6. frank ly

    How Quaint

    They still have telephone cables running along the street suspended from wooden poles. Those ugly brown boxes totally ruin the olde worlde charm of the place.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    of course.

    so that's why the property prices collapsed. Not subprime mortgages, but little brown boxes.

    I hope everyone sues everyone else and they all end up bankrupt (except the lawyers of course).

  8. Jeroen Braamhaar

    Bleeding obvious solution ...

    - remove brown boxes

    - remove cell towers

    - remove "unsightly telegraph and utility poles" (and associated services and utilities)

    - say very sorry

    - pay a minimum damages fee

    - turn a deaf ear to whinging home owners as they find themselves bereft of electricity and landline services, after all, because installing them would lower their property values

    Bleeding idiots ...

  9. Stevie


    I rather think that the residents of this "fine" town have more pressing and deadly reasons for the property prices that prevail than these brown boxes. I won't drive through the downtown area at night on a bet after the first (and last) time.

    The Long Island lawyers are, however, not slow to recognise a possible money-spinner when they see one, as anyone who watches the USA channel (for NCIS reruns) can attest. There's a firm that runs umpteen adverts a night suggesting imaginitive ways you might have possibly suffered alleged injury or long-term sickness along with a kind and I'm sure philanthropic offer to "help seek redress".

  10. Anonymous Coward


    I wonder how well it would cope with a tesla coil firing some lightning at it? (That's my plan if they put one directly outside my house)

    Failing that, will it blend?

  11. Bassey

    Might have trouble proving that

    How can they prove that these boxes are causing house prices to go down? For a start, the housing market is in a depression. And, in any case, advertising your town as a technical backwater with no telecommunications infrastructure is hardly likely to attract the nouveau riche into the area, is it?

  12. James Loughner


    If they still use telegraph in this town it is about time the upgraded!!!!

  13. James 5

    Ah no....

    .. you miss the point! The boxes have ventilation slits. They obviously contain something living and probably highly dangerous......

    Mutant squirrels would certainly help lower property prices...

  14. RW

    Nothing more than a pathological form of NIMBY syndrome

    People bitching about change qua change and doing their utmost to forestall the inevitable. This happens when people have way too much spare time on their hands, yet are subject to a relentless tide of technological and social change they have absolutely no influence over.

    It's a very common brain fart: a lot of the anti-Obama rhetoric arises from this: what? a black man President? Ooooooh, change, social change; gotta resist it!

  15. Tom 35

    It's the zune brown colour

    That is getting them upset.

    They should repant them... maybe Green and Orange strips.

  16. Sordid Details

    I'll have one!

    Yes please!!! Property prices be bollox'd (they already are anyway)...I've got such crap Orange coverage where I live that I'd quite happily have one of these up a pole outside my house if it meant decent in-building coverage.

  17. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not a big deal

    @frank ly, yes... some areas do have them...

    1) If they're freaking over these boxes, they would throw a fit over them digging to bury the cables. This area could be quite old before burying was common.

    2) Some parts of the country, the ground freezing and melting so much makes buried cables infeasible.

    3) They may actually be power or other lines -- in some of our neighborhoods, power and cable are above ground, but telephone is buried. Why? I have no idea.


    I don't see the big deal over these boxes -- the poles are already not that great looking, who cares what's hanging off them.

    What I *would* be concerned about were the UVerse boxes -- these are like 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and they tend to put them next to driveways, so a person backing out, instead of seeing if the street's clear they see this huge box and just have to hope there's no traffic. AT&T has been using the existing right-of-ways that previously had green boxes about the size of a traffic bollard, and apparently won't even move the box down a couple feet.

    A box on a pole? I don't see the big deal. And clearly $100 million is an absurd amount to sue for even if they had merit.

  18. Simon 39


    Property values are dropping everywhere, but for these people it's because of this "special" reason. Yeah, sure. Maybe those unsightly traffic lights and stop signs should go too.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    @ Tesla #

    No but it will burn very nicely if given the right fluidic prompting....

    maybe you could also tie one of the local planning officials that approved its installation to it while it combusts.

    chuck another on the barbie.... and pass the beer....

  20. Anonymous Coward

    I can almost see their point

    you'd hope that something like an ultra-high-tech networky box would be designed to look... well, modern. All swooping shapes and decent quality plastic or pressed metal. I can't imagine a massive increase in price from "folded, pierced and riveted metal box" to "metal-lined (if neccesary) vacuum-formed / moulded 2-piece plastic case".

    Equally, any salesperson worth their salt would be able to point out that due to "that small inobtrusive box over there" you've got a fantastic mobile phone signal- no dropped calls, no missed SMSes, and even a longer battery life as the phone lowers its output the closer it gets to the base station. You could even argue that if microwaves from mobiles are dangerous you're making it less dangerous for the same reason. Even better, unlike some other phone operators the box is up high rather than on the pavement, meaning fewer obstructions and greater safety for kids riding along not watching where they're going.

    With a good salesperson and a techy/sufficiently confused or FUDed-about-mobiles customer you could probably squeeze another $1,000 out of just having this box sat there.

    Additionally- it's in a tree or on a pole. From Google Earth it doesn't look like it's interrupting beautiful scenery or anything.

  21. Christoph

    Streisand Effect

    They have now made certain that everybody has heard about those boxes, which will depress the prices in Hempstead even further.

  22. Andus McCoatover

    Masts don't radiate.

    'Tis funny, (I suppose the "mast debate" joke keeps it alive) but it's the BTS/BS/Node-B (at the base of the tower) that generates the power. The antennas at the pinnacle radiate. Away from the base/mast/whatever*.

    The mast only gets old war-veterans to salute it if there's a flag at the top. Before their own flag is flying at half-staff.

    *So, sticking it across the road from a school, rather than on the top of it exposes the kids to more of the UNharmful RF. Think Homer Simpson. Think Doughnuts. Think trainspotting. Think about "wouldn't it be marvellous if I had a fuc*king life (or ever even had had a fuc*k)".

  23. Solomon Grundy

    It's True

    They are pretty ugly. They look like something that came out of a 2nd year college course in electrical engineering. And why the hell do they have to be brown?

  24. Mark Monaghan

    Mast debaters

    I once attended a planning meeting where a group of residents objected to a new phone mast on the grounds that:

    "The phone companies should do something about the terrible service in the area, before they put up any new masts."

  25. HansG


    Jeroen Braamhaar said everything I was gunna

    here here, who needs mobile phone signal anyway, it's not like anything relies on it these days

  26. Fritz
    Thumb Up

    It isn't that they don't want cell service...

    ... it's that the cell service infrastructure should be installed on the property of poor people.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    It's an election stunt

    If The Register had done its homework, it would have pointed out that aforementioned "legal representative Glenn Stephenson" is running an election campaign to become the Nassau Country Legislator.

  28. Player_16

    Now the rates have increased...

    ... to pay for the lawsuit! The council could always buy a tiny bit of backyard to someone and erect a bloody big mast and be done with those 'ugly, brown, unobtrusive, low-hanging fruit boxes'.

    'Hey, why won't the council patch these big-ass holes in the street? Pick up the trash (rubbish) every 2 weeks? Cracked sidewalks (footpaths)? When they gonna put a new bulb in the street lamp - it's dark here.' Because they had to pay a bunch of lawyers and loose $m's in court.

  29. Christopher Martin

    Try "disguising" them

    Around Atlanta we had some people complaining about towers, and the "solution" was to put some shoddy decorations on them to make them "look like trees" - resulting in something far uglier than the towers had been.

    Serves those whiners right. Electronics scattered about is just part of the modern landscape, particularly in a city.

  30. Sureo

    Brown boxes?

    Let's see, on my street there are various shapes and sized boxes on most lawns for cable TV, electric wires on poles with huge transformers here and there, fire hydrants every few houses, and quite a few lawn ornaments that are not to everyone's taste. The only break we get is that the telephone system is mostly underground, but a few more boxes pop up here and there for it. I'm not sure a few brown boxes would even be noticed. Best they all have a beer.

  31. Anonymous Coward



  32. Keith 19


  33. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Nimby wimby woo.

    You're talking about people who would read the Fail or the Excess if they lived in the UK. You can tell this because they are (1) obsessed with house prices and (2) opposed to any and all change.

    Last year on our street the streetlights were replaced with new, brighter lights. This meant we ended up with much better lighting and fewer lamposts (and lower CO2 emissions for the Grauniad readers at number 4). In order to achieve the best spread of lighting some of the lamposts were moved. As a result we had some neighbours who threatened to take action against the local authority for taking their lampost away. And others threating to take action against the local authority for putting a new lampost outside their house. It would have made an interesting case.

    In these cases I believe the best course of action for the LA to take is to offer to put things back exactly as they were. It would satisfy the court and totally piss off the complainants. And of course if the complainants complained further this would demonstrate that the suit was speculative or frivolous which probably amount to contempt.

  34. elderlybloke

    Here in New Zealand

    I may sue someone for being endangered and stressed when the cable going up a pole just a short distance from my property, got flames shooting out of it.

    Then the transformer across the street went bang , and a fire engine turned up.

    Plus the deprivation of having no power for a few hours.

    The twitch I got was almost like when a force 6..8 earthquake with epicentre about 20 km away , that we had a couple of years ago.

    It's all true I tell you.

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