Cell Antennas at Lighthouse Near Approval

“What we don’t have at the lighthouse and the surrounding areas is reliable cellphone coverage,”
Following a public hearing held last week, the East Hampton Town Planning Board will soon decide on a proposal to mount nine flat cellphone-signal antennas on the fire tower next to the Montauk Lighthouse. T.E. McMorrow

The East Hampton Town Planning Board held a public hearing on March 28 on a site plan that would allow AT&T to place cellphone antenna panels on three of the four sides of the World War II-era fire-control tower at the Montauk Lighthouse.

The Montauk Historical Society, which oversees the facility, had received a variance from the zoning board of appeals in January; it was needed because the lighthouse and surrounding state park are zoned for parks and recreation, which excludes cellphone antennas. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has already approved the project.

At the hearing, Joe Gaviola of Montauk, who has been leading the effort to have cell antennas installed, reminded the board that the lighthouse was the first public works project in the United States, commissioned by George Washington in 1792. While the lighthouse is self-sustaining, he said it is visited by 100,000 visitors a year, with another 100,000 per year visiting surrounding parkland. Nearby Montauk Harbor has visitors on an estimated 1,800 boats. 

“What we don’t have at the lighthouse and the surrounding areas is reliable cellphone coverage,” he said.

All the supporting equipment will be installed inside the six-story tower, which was built to guard against German attack. The panels will be placed on the north, south, and east exterior walls, mounted flush and painted to match the color of the tower. The west exterior wall, the one most visible to visitors walking up the hill toward the lighthouse, will look exactly as it has for the past 70-plus years.

The board is likely to discuss the request at its meeting on Wednesday.