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WBAI press conference in City Hall

Tyler Williams | 7/12/2017, 3:34 p.m.
In New York City City Hall, the WBAI-FM radio station is set to have a press conference on Thursday at ...
WBAI

In New York City City Hall, the WBAI-FM radio station is set to have a press conference on Thursday at 1 p.m. The purpose of this conference is because the Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) is suing WBAI radio station over unpaid tower lease costs of $53,000 per month which added up to $2 million in back rent, according to Radio World.

WBAI-FM is a part of Pacifica Radio Network that is listener-supported in New York City. Station interim director Bill Crosier says the non-profit corporation, which also owns stations in Texas and California, has been paying $12,000 a month for the last three years, which they believe is a fair market rate, according to the Black Agenda Report.

Mitchel Cohen who is former Chair of WBAI Local Station Board told Amsterdam News about his take on this situation as well. “The Empire State Building has been charging WBAI more than four times the going rate for transmission over their antenna, and WBAI simply cannot afford it”, said Cohen.

Cohen added: “A number of NYC's and NY State politicians have lined up to support WBAI -- greatly appreciated. Their support has pushed the Empire State Building's parent corporation to request a meeting with WBAI later this month. Will it be productive? A lot depends on listeners and staff banding together, now! Please join us this Thursday at 1 pm, on the steps of NY City Hall”, said Cohen. One of those New York State politicians who support radio station is New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

According to DiNapoli who wrote a formal letter to the Executive Vice President and Director of Leasing of Empire State Realty Trust Thomas Durels, the State Comptroller wrote: “It is my understanding that the contract in question is a 15-year lease, expiring in 2020, that involves a 7% annually escalating licensing fee- an amount that exceeds the rate of inflation.” The inflation rate is 1.9% in the United States.

State Comptroller DiNapoli furthered his statement by saying: “Further, it is my understanding that market rates for transmitter retail space in the New York City area have dropped significantly in the recent years to approximately $12,000 per month, yet under the terms of the lease WBAI/Pacifica bill for the month of May 2017 exceeded $53,000- an amount that reportedly could threaten the continued viability of community radio.”

According to the Radio World, the WBAI-FM radio station is asking for community support to help it reach what it terms a “fair” settlement. Crosier appreciates the letters of support from elected officials.“We’ve been standing up for the rights of people who don’t have political influence for a long time”, said Crosier. According to Crosier, he has never had a dispute like this before.

Also, Pacifica concludes its press release this way: “Listeners and media staff across the U.S. are taking action with petitions, press releases, videos and social media in support of Pacifica and WBAI as they face this daunting legal assault. Pacifica is asking for support to help Pacifica get a fair settlement with ESRT and relief from the grossly excessive annual increases in the antenna lease”, according to the Radio World.

Cohen told Amsterdam News about his viewpoint about the Empire State Building’s suggestion to pay the rental costs. “Instead, the ESB's lawyers have said that Pacifica should sell the station or swap signals in order to feed their greed. My view? Let's support David (WBAI) in our battle with this real estate Goliath.”

For more information, go to this website: http://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/0002/pacifica-in-court-over-tower-lease-dispute/340005