06.02.2003 12:00 PM
New York TV stations to return to Ground Zero

The Freedom Tower may house as many as 22 antennas for channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 31, 41, 47 and 68.

An artist's rendition of New York City broadcasters' potential new transmission home. The broadcast mast on top is an integral part of the overall design.

Having exhausted all of their options in the tri-state area, the Metropolitan Television Alliance (MSTV), a consortium of New York City television stations, has signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” to construct a broadcast mast as the top portion of a planned 1,776-foot at the site of the World Trade Center.

If it comes to fruition, the preliminary agreement would return New York broadcasters to the site they occupied before Sept. 11, 2001.

The new tower, called Freedom Tower, is 26 feet taller than the WTC. The new tower would house as many as 22 antennas for channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 31, 41, 47 and 68, and is scheduled to be complete in 2008.

Last week the MTVA signed an agreement with Larry A. Silverstein, the leaseholder and developer at the trade center site, to install the transmission equipment once the building is completed. Studio Daniel Libeskind is designing Freedom Tower. There would be roughly 70 occupied floors, reaching 900 feet, and the upper half of the structure would be more of an open steel latticework.

Some antennas could be mounted in the mast that Libeskind has already designed as the pinnacle of the tower, said Edward Grebow, president of the broadcasters' alliance, in an interview with the New York Times.

In April, Grebow attended a luncheon at which Gov. George E. Pataki set out aggressive goals for redeveloping Lower Manhattan. “I came away thinking for the first time, ‘Yes, this is going to happen in a plausible time frame,’” he recalled.

Under the schedule, Gov. Pataki secured a pledge that the cornerstone for the new tower would be laid in August 2004. However, there are many unknowns about the Freedom Tower project, including the exact design of the building and the cost.

The broadcasters would "pay our way” in construction costs for the antennas, Grebow said, and would also pay rent to Silverstein, who was their landlord at the World Trade Center, where they paid about $9 million a year. That amount could possibly be higher, although the exact figures or time frames have yet to be negotiated.

Since the World Trade Center attack, broadcasters have been using the Empire State Building to house low power antennas. Their search for a new site has led them to consider Governors Island, Jersey City and Brooklyn.

“One of our big challenges will be to make the antennas aesthetically pleasing,” Grebow said. They range in height from several hundred feet to 30 or 40 feet, he said, and could be concealed within a shell of fiberglass-like material.

Members of the alliance are WCBS (Channel 2), WNBC (4), WNYW (5), WABC (7), WWOR (9), WPIX (11), WNET (13), WPXN (31), WXTV (41), WNJU (47) and WFUT (68).

Whether the building gets all of the necessary approvals is still uncertain and the completion date for the project is still up in the air (no pun intended). The MTVA issued a press release stating that the Freedom Tower, including the broadcasters’ antennas, will be the first office tower to be completed at the World Trade Center site and stations should begin analog and digital operation from the tower by 2008.

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