JERSEY CITY, NJ - Faced with a lawsuit that city attorneys said could not be won, a divided Jersey City Council voted Wednesday to approve a contract that will lead to the installation 72 5G poles.

Council President Joyce Watterman said the legislative body was helpless to do anything but approve the resolution, saying that the company suing the city would withdraw the lawsuit. ZenFi Networks initiated a lawsuit against the city after the council tabled the ordinance earlier this month.

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Jersey City First Assistant Corporation Counsel Nick Strasser said that under 1996 federal legislation Jersey City lacked the authority to stop the project on potential danger to the public health. The FCC which oversees the telecom communication industry had already determined the technology was safe although numerous groups around the nation claim otherwise.

Since the council had previously approved two other similar installations, the city was in a bad legal position to hold up this contract, city attorneys said.

Despite the legal opinion, Councilmembers Richard Boggiano, James Solomon and Rolando Lavarro voted against the measure, each for different reasons.

Boggiano said that there was precedent in other states – including a California Supreme Court ruling – that would allow the city to vote down the contract, adding that there seems to be evidence that the new technology posed a health risk for people living near where these poles were installed.

“Jersey City is a hot market,” Lavarro, who attempted to delay approval until more options could be explored, said, sharing his concern that similar polls would proliferate the community as other cellular companies seek similar rights in Jersey City. While the contract with ZenFi Networks put in a provision that could result in the company sharing poles with future companies, Lavarro said it was unlikely, and that the council would not later have power to force the company to do so.

Solomon offered his dismay that Jersey City could not benefit financially from the installation of the new polls, and that under state law fees charged can only cover engineering and other costs associated with reviewing the plans. He also lamented that previous installations have “failed to live to promises” when it comes to the types of polls being used, especially in historic districts. 

Although the council passed a resolution asking U.S. Reps. Albio Sires (D-8) and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), as well as U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ), to seek changes on a federal level, Strasser said this would not likely be done in a timely manner – if at all – and still left the city at risk of fighting and losing a lawsuit with the telecom carrier.

“It’s unlikely that in the next six months to a year there will be any action taken on this,” Strasser said.

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