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It’s Just One Utility Pole Too Many

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 13:32

As neighbors get buried lines, this couple will lose their ‘only piece of blue sky’

Yvonne and Dan Ujvari at their house on Cooper Lane in East Hampton, where a new super-sized utility pole will join four others near their property’s edge.
Jamie Bufalino

PSEG Long Island, the electric utility, has agreed to bury the transmission lines that run along McGuirk and King Streets in East Hampton Village and reduce the size of the poles there, according to Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator. The project, however, would require the installation of a new supersize pole in front of a residence at 51 Cooper Lane, which that home’s owners say will destroy their quality of life.

“This is going to loom over us — the only piece of blue sky I’ve got, it’s going to take it up,” lamented Dan Ujvari, who lives there with his wife, Yvonne. Their house is at the corner of Cooper and McGuirk, and is already surrounded by four utility poles. “Every morning I’m going to see the shadows in my kitchen, and every time I sit in my living room, I’m going to look out the window and see this thing,” Mr. Ujvari said.

The utility poles in the neighborhood have been an issue for residents since 2014, when PSEG, in an effort to upgrade the power lines between the East Hampton Town electrical substations at Cove Hollow Road and Old Stone Highway, replaced existing poles with ones that were 10 to 15 feet taller.

A lawsuit brought that year by a citizens group seeking to have the poles removed and the lines buried is ongoing. The suit alleges that PSEG improperly determined there would be no adverse environmental impacts from the new poles, which have been treated, it says, with the toxic chemical pentachlorophenol, and whose 23-kilovolt electrical lines emit dangerous radiation.

Ms. Hansen said David Daly, the former president of PSEG-LI, had agreed to bury the lines on McGuirk and King Streets prior to leaving the position in 2017.

The pole to be installed on Cooper Lane, she said, is a “riser pole,” which would transition the overhead transmission line underground. Once the riser pole is installed, the transmission line would be buried, but the other utility lines would remain. The poles will be the same size as the ones that existed prior to 2014.

According to a letter from Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. and the village board, which was meant to inform the Ujvaris of the situation but was mistakenly sent to a neighbor, the project is scheduled to begin on Feb. 1. Before it can start, said Ms. Hansen, the board would have to issue a permit to open the road.

After he found out about the proposed pole, Mr. Ujvari said he contacted Ms. Hansen and arranged to meet with village officials and PSEG at the site where it would be installed. During that meeting, he said, a PSEG engineer assured him that “we don’t ever put a pole like this in front of somebody’s home.” The engineer also recommended placing the riser pole in front of Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Mr. Ujvari said, farther down the street.

That section of Cooper Lane, however, is in East Hampton Town, which, in 2017, became a party to the lawsuit against PSEG. Ms. Hansen said the town would not agree to have the pole on its land. Other potential spots were explored, she said, but the village board decided the most feasible one would be at 51 Cooper Lane.

Mr. Ujvari has hired an attorney to fight the installation. “Once something’s in, it’s a lot harder to get it out,” his wife said.

Their neighbors on McGuirk Street, Mr. Ujvari said, have been empathetic with his plight, but they are more eager to have lower-profile poles. “They feel like this is their only shot to get rid of those wires.”

The homeowner is frustrated that the village has not required PSEG to find a better solution, and that the town will not agree to take the riser pole.

“I’m caught in between, and I’m going to wind up being harmed,” he said.

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