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Let Freedom Reign

On Sept. 11, 2004, the city of New York is expected to break ground on the Freedom Tower, the building that will stand on the footprint of the World Trade Center. How long it will take to complete is unknown; estimates are anywhere from three to five years. When it's finished, a new antenna will stand atop the tallest building in the world, at 1,776 feet.

Last week, the Metropolitan Television Alliance, a consortium of 11 New York City TV stations, named Paul Bissonette president, replacing Ed Grebow, who left to pursue other opportunities. Bissonette was vice president and general manager at WPIX New York for three years. He'll call on his management experience and his understanding of technology to help New York broadcasters settle into their new home. He discussed his plans with B&C:

Where do things stand between the MTVA and Silverstein Properties, which will build the Freedom Tower?

Last May, a memorandum of understanding was signed that basically says New York broadcasters want to be there and Silverstein Properties wants them to be there. We'll jump very aggressively into the key design issues. Which will be a two-way street: them telling us what we need to know about the design of the building, and us telling them what they need to know about our needs.

Can you share any of those details?

Every antenna is a custom project. This one is perhaps the ultimate custom project. Everything we do at this stage is about what the antenna will look like and how it will function.

Do you think your challenge will be more political or technical?

I'm hoping it's going to be both. New York Gov. George Pataki has been very helpful and active in getting things moving at the site. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also been very supportive. I'm sure there will be both technical and political challenges down the road, but that's what will make this job exciting. Given the fact that nothing like this has ever been built before, it's inevitable there will be technical challenges. But I'm sure we're going to overcome them.

An op-ed piece in The New York Times recently discussed how the building will be an immediate target. Does that idea give the MTVA pause?

No. If you've been following some of the other things in the popular press about the Freedom Tower, [you know] everyone goes into the project with that in the back of their minds. But there are tremendous extra steps being taken to make this perhaps the safest building in the country. Somebody wrote a letter to the Times
in response to that column that was absolutely on target. No amount of architectural modesty will deter people from attacking us. And I think it's in the spirit of New Yorkers to want to rebuild bigger and better than ever.