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Let's Put It in Bayonne

It looks like a six-acre site in Bayonne, N.J., will be the home of a 2,000-foot transmission tower serving New York City broadcasters, but not until the broadcasters and the city get the blessing from the state of New Jersey.

"We thought we were all set to build our tower in Bayonne, but now there have been issues raised by the state," said Ed Grebow, president of the MTVA. "It's an easily secured site that is large enough for the tower and it's right off of lower Manhattan, so it's an ideal site for a tall tower."

The issues were presented to the MTVA in a letter from Bradley Campbell, the New Jersey environmental commissioner, who laid out 14 questions to the MTVA, and at least one provocative comment: "There is currently no record to support the conclusion that siting the proposed tower in New Jersey, let alone at a particular site in New Jersey, is sound public policy."

Grebow said the letter surprised the MTVA because the questions raised were "never asked" in the past about previously proposed broadcast towers in the town. The MTVA has until Jan. 8 to respond.

The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, in response to Campbell's letter, voted to give permission for the tower to be built at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, a move that would bring in an estimated $4 million annually in new city tax revenues. The amendment now goes to the Bayonne City Council for adoption.

"We believe that the tower would benefit Bayonne by jump-starting the redevelopment of the former Military Ocean Terminal," said Nancy Kist, BLRA executive director, at the hearing. If the approvals fall into place, construction could begin this summer. It probably wouldn't be operational until summer 2004.

The MTVA, formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, comprises all the city's major TV broadcasters: ABC (WABC-TV); CBS (WCBS-TV); Tribune (WPIX[TV]); Fox (WWOR-TV and WNYW[TV]); NBC (WNBC[TV] and WNJU[TV]); Paxson (WPXN-TV); Univision (WXTV[TV]); and WNET. They have agreed to share the cost equally and, according to Baker, have already spent "millions" on engineering studies and lobbying.

One of the reasons Bayonne is attractive to the MTVA is that the city did not require an observation deck as a part of the deal—a posture broadcasters like because it eases security burdens. But the state may feel differently.

"They've made it clear to us that the biggest issue is the observation deck and that they want it to be a tourist attraction," said Grebow.

Despite the letter, Grebow is upbeat.

"Bayonne passed the zoning ordinance to permit a tower on that site and we're optimistic about the FAA approval as well," says Grebow. The deadline for comments to the FAA is Jan. 17, while public comments are due by Jan. 24.