From the NY Times:
Tenants at 165 Pinehurst Avenue, a six-story brick building on a hilltop in Washington Heights, have something most modern Americans would envy: impeccable cellphone service.
But it comes with a cost. They worry their building in northern Manhattan is going to collapse.
Their reception is so crisp because of two cellphone base stations and 20 antennas positioned on their building’s roof, sending and receiving thousands of calls each day for T-Mobile and AT&T.
To the cellphone providers, this hub — and others like it — are essential to accommodating the explosion of mobile data and voice communications.
But the tenants, as much as they like their clear reception, are in an uproar because they argue that their 82-year-old building cannot bear the weight of the base stations.
Long, zigzagging cracks have appeared along the building’s outer walls, and mortar has crumbled from the parapet, which supports hefty I-beams that the base stations sit upon.
“Before this went up, we were told we couldn’t come up here, because it wasn’t stable enough for human weight,” said Meg Gibson, a longtime tenant, as she surveyed the building’s factorylike rooftop on a recent sunlit day.
The rooftop, painted silver, was crisscrossed with snakelike metal coverings, protecting transmission cables. The rectangular cellphone antennas stood sentinel along the edges. Two raised metal platforms, resembling miniature oil rigs, filled a quarter of the rooftop, supporting the cabinetlike base stations that receive and send calls.
The tenants did not mind much when the first base station, which belongs to T-Mobile, went up in 2006, but grew concerned when the second one, owned by AT&T, was installed last fall.
Ms. Gibson said her roof had a “chronic problem” of disrepair, and alerted the city to her concerns. The Buildings Department issued a notice of violation to the landlord, Shahram Mobasser, for failing to maintain the buildings’ walls, and, in a report, noted four large cracks beneath the base station’s support beams, though a city engineer concluded that it was hard to determine the cause of the cracks.
The Buildings Department approved the landlord’s application to erect the AT&T base station last summer, after determining, a spokeswoman said, that the plans complied with the building code. Sarita S. Marbella, the architect who signed off on the work last February, would not comment on the tenants’ complaints, citing a confidentiality clause with AT&T.