The personnel of radio station WBAI-FM spoke their minds, not on the radio but at City Hall July 13. The news conference was held because the Empire State Realty Trust is suing WBAI radio station over unpaid tower lease fees of $53,000 per month, a total of $2 million. However, market rates for transmitter rental space in the New York City area have dropped significantly in the recent years to approximately $12,000 per month, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Mimi Rosenberg, co-host of “Building Bridges” on WBAI-FM, stated, “We are the movers and shakers, and that’s part of why the rapacious, corporate reality which is the Empire State Realty Trust wants to shut us down.”
One of the community organizers at the news conference was Shepard P. McDaniel, also known as Brother Shep. He said, “WBAI radio has supported our communities for decades.” He added that information is intelligence and the youth are our future. “We have to support the station, we have to continue to expand programming so it can preach out to more of our youth,” said McDaniel.
An unidentified supporter stated, “Part of having power is having our own means of communication …WBAI is one of the only ones that are left.”
Ama Karikari Yawson, who hosts the WBAI program “How to Make it in the City,” said, “Ninety-five percent of corporate media is the same. The same stories every day, the same narrative every day. WBAI provides a critical voice. They tell us about our health, they tell us about our rights, they tell us about our community, they tell us about our culture. If we lose this, we have nothing.”
Rosenberg added that WBAI is a vital, independent radio station that has lifted the voices of working people for more than a half-century. “It would be a travesty that the voice of the people will be silent at a time where we need it more than ever,” said Rosenberg.
The pro-bono attorney Samuel Himmelstein who is representing WBAI-FM radio station in this rental dispute said he thinks the public and elected officials have made a significant impact on the case. “We had a settlement meeting with the Empire State Building in May, and we made what we thought was a very significant settlement proposal,” said Himmelstein. “And what we were answered with was ‘nothing, we have no counter offer for you.’”
Himmelstein added that a letter was sent to Empire State Realty Trust that was signed by a number of elected officials urging them to settle and come back to the table. “That afternoon, I got a call from their lawyer saying that they would like to set up another settlement conference,” said Himmelstein. “I don’t think that was a coincidence.”
Himmelstein concluded, “This is something that the whole city is watching.”
For the videos of the news conference, visit https://www.wbai.org/articles.php?article=3468.