Dan Rattiner's Stories

Look Out! Fall Radius Law Shields Us from Falling Towers

Last month AT&T appeared at a Town Planning Board meeting in East Hampton to discuss their application to build a 120-foot-tall cellphone tower in Napeague.

The town was not happy about the proposed shingles that would go on a storage shed AT&T would build next door to the tower. Vinyl shingles are not appropriate for East Hampton Town said Board Member Weir. The board was also not happy about something they called the “fall radius” of the tower. Ever hear of a “fall radius?”

Reed Jones, the chairman of the planning board, referring to the fall radius if the tower keeled over, said, “How are people supposed to get out of town?”

The concept the applicant must deal with for a new project such as a telephone tower is, you take the height of the tower, pretend it is going to fall over, and then move the pretend fallen tower in a circle, with the base as its center and its tip as the outer point, and drag it around. The circular line made at the tip defines the “fall zone” within. You don’t want to be in there when the tower falls. And the board can make a judgment about it.

I hope that explains it.

Who comes up with these things? A tall tree has a fall radius. They occasionally fall across a road in a storm. And when that happens, the traffic stops and the authorities come in and remove it. It happens. I’ve seen pictures of trees that fell across Main Street in the Hurricane of ’38.

But when is the last time you ever heard of a tower falling over in the Hamptons? We build them strong. In the Hurricane of ’38, both of the two 300-foot-tall Mackie Radio Towers in Napeague fell over. But they got rebuilt the following year. Most people are not old enough to remember that. They think there is only one Mackie Radio Tower. And that is true today, but half a century after the two towers got rebuilt, it was found that one leaned a bit, so they tore it down before it could crash down.

By the way, these towers had originally been built to send Morse code messages by radio to ships at sea. They did not build two in case one fell. They built two because they had to string a light antenna wire high up between the two. You needed that for radio transmission in those days. Also, by the way, when the towers did fall during the hurricane, they harmed no one, just sploshed down into some wetlands.

Wait a minute! There were wetlands that got smooshed because of a “fall radius” object that fell down over it? Were crabs and bugs injured? Yes, truth be told.

I think “fall radius” is a wonderful concept. We should have laws about trees and their “fall radius.” The fall radius should be printed on the packet of seeds you plant to grow a tree to show just how big that tree is going to be so those of us here in the future can deal with that possibility.

And people should have a “fall radius.” People fall all the time. The fall radius should be right there on your driver’s license, under where it says you are willing to donate an organ if the circumstances are favorable.

I am planning on a new app for my cellphone. You can make a million if you make a new app. I call it the “seagull app.” If you see a seagull flying around overhead, tap the app. The app will calculate the height the seagull is above ground, and the strength and direction of the wind, and then it will determine the seagull’s fall radius, so you know where you shouldn’t be in the event the seagull poops.

As for the tower in Napeague, the planning department proposes that the cellphone tower be put on the roof of the building that houses Goldberg’s Bagels on that property. But it would have to be enclosed in a steeple. It could be Our Lady of the Bagels.

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