Jersey likely site of NYC tower

When the Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA) began the process of finding a new home for a television tower in the New York City area last September, the hope was for a site to be selected by this Sept. 11. That won't be happening. But broadcasters may have a new transmission home within two months. And it may be in New Jersey.

"We've received terrific cooperation from New Jersey, and we've received less cooperation from New York City," says MTVA President Ed Grebow. "We're narrowing down potential sites and hope to start construction for a tower soon."

MTVA continues to move forward with the selection process, he says. "If we can find an appropriate site in New Jersey, that may be the easiest thing to do."

An "appropriate site" at this point seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of Jersey City and the Liberty Science Center.

"We're enthusiastic about it, but we're waiting to hear the final word," says Elizabeth Romanaux, Liberty Science Center vice president of advertising and communications. "I haven't heard anything in a while."

She echoes Grebow's comments about the difficulties of dealing with New York, adding, "New York has made it obvious that they're caught up in other stuff and they don't want to deal with a tower."

The two main contenders are Governors Island or one of three sites in Jersey City, N.J. From the start, Governors Island seemed the logical choice, given its location off southern Manhattan and the impending return of rights from the federal government to New York City. Early efforts to gain support within New York City government, particularly from Mayor Bloomberg, proved difficult. Even Grebow, who headed the Ed Sullivan Theater conversion into David Letterman's studio, has had difficulty getting traction.

The Jersey City options include a site owned by Aramenis Utilities Authority, where the Jersey City car pound is located; a piece of property just north of the Liberty Science Center; and, just north of that site, privately owned land with a warehouse. The third option seems the most likely; the first is said to be all but off the table; the second is tricky because of wetlands, which could spur objections from the state government and environmentalists. Negotiations on a lease on the third site are proceeding.

Why has Jersey City been more aggressive than New York City in lobbying for the tower? A spokesperson for the Jersey City Economic Development Corp. says simply, "We want it"—especially if the tower includes a restaurant or observation deck.

Jersey City and Governors Island are the most practical options. Waiting for the World Trade Center rebuilding would take until 2007 or '08.

"Big projects in New York are always difficult, and, because of the emotions surrounding anything to do with the World Trade Center, rebuilding is a very difficult process," says Grebow. "We do believe, if we could wait, broadcasters could return to whatever gets built on the World Trade Center site. But, unfortunately, that's many, many years from now."

It will take about two years to get the tower up once the site is selected. Government approvals, a design and then the construction phase are still to be completed.

"Viewers are being driven to cable," says Grebow. "We're doing interim improvements at the Empire State Building so that the coverage is getting better all the time, but it will never duplicate what we had at the World Trade Center."