February 8, 2011

Board Approves Verizon Facility Atop Riley Robb

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In response to greater use of the Verizon Wireless network on campus, Verizon will add a cell phone antenna and other wireless telecommunications equipment to the roof of Riley Robb Hall.

On Feb. 1 the Town of Ithaca Planning Board unanimously approved the installation of a Verizon Wireless facility on the roof of Riley Robb Hall.The equipment is being installed in response to the increased use of the Verizon Wireless network on campus. Smartphone and data-centric devices have led to greater demand for the Verizon network at Cornell, according to Sarah Dean, real estate associate in Cornell’s Department of Real Estate.Despite the planning board’s approval, the facility’s developers must still win a height variance from the Town of Ithaca’s Zoning Board on Feb. 28 to proceed with the project.If built, the equipment will consist of a 15-panel antenna on the roof, additional wireless telecommunications equipment on the third floor and an emergency back-up generator outside the building.“The back-up generator will assist with power to the wireless equipment in the case of a power outage,” said Christine Balestra, planner in the Town of Ithaca Planning Department. This project was first proposed by Verizon when the company recognized a gap in wireless coverage in the area near Riley Robb that could not be corrected without additional facilities, according to Fred Wilson, chair of the planning board. “The addition of this site will address Verizon’s need for increased network capacity,” Dean said. The facility “will also help with in-building coverage in the surrounding area,” he said.  Baelstra said the project will make communicating through the Verizon network more efficient. Building this facility is just “part of a comprehensive upgrade of the Verizon Wireless network for Tompkins County,” according to Baelstra. Working with the real estate department, Verizon considered three University buildings facing Wing Drive when choosing the building for the project. Dean said Riley Robb Hall was chosen for the project because it was considered to have the best roof line for the facility’s required antennas. After Verizon received permission from the University to submit the application for the site to the Town of Ithaca Planning Board, the project was examined for environmental issues and consistency with town regulations, Wilson said. “My assumption is that once a lease agreement with Cornell University is finalized, they would begin construction as soon as possible, given the weather and other factors,” Wilson said.This is not the first cell phone station to be built on campus.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh