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New York Tower Gets A Home

The Metropolitan Television Alliance signed a memorandum of understanding with Silverstein Properties last week that will place a new broadcast tower for New York-area television stations on top of the Freedom Tower, a 1,776-foot office tower that Silverstein will build on the site of the World Trade Center.

That's where the MTVA always wanted it to be, but getting there wasn't easy.

"This agreement is a big accomplishment and a major step for the MTVA and New York City broadcasters," says MTVA President Ed Grebow.

The MTVA comprises all the city's major TV broadcasters: WABC-TV, WCBS-TV, WPIX(TV), WWOR-TV, WNYW(TV), WNBC(TV), WNJU(TV), WPXN-TV, WXTV(TV) and WNET(TV). Most of the city's stations are currently using the Empire State Building as a makeshift tower site.

Earlier, the MTVA signed a deal with Bayonne, N.J., for the construction of a 2,000-foot tower there. But that plan fell apart recently due to the potential rejection by the Federal Aviation Administration and renewed interest from New York City.

Shortly after 9/11, the biggest hurdle for the broadcaster group was trying to place the tower on New York's Governors Island as a temporary or permanent site for the new tower. The city of New York was hardly receptive to that idea, particularly Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But Grebow said that, when he attended a luncheon with Silverstein last month and heard New York Gov. George Pataki talk about plans for rebuilding Lower Manhattan, where the World Trade Center once stood, he sensed that he could get some new traction with the city and state. And now the city and the mayor helped. "It's the cooperation with Mayor Bloomberg and his office that has changed the most," Grebow said.

The MTVA, the city and Silverstein Properties are moving forward with the next phase of the project. This Thursday, a meeting will be held to figure out whether the timetable of the Freedom Tower's construction obviates building the temporary tower on Governors Island, where it appears the MTVA now could construct a temporary tower. The question now is whether doing so would be worth that expense and the time it would take to build a temporary structure. In contentious New York, the other question is whether Freedom Tower will be built. There has been criticism of the design, chosen among many in a quasi-public competition.

But, if all goes right. ground is expected to be broken on the Freedom Tower in the summer of 2004, and broadcasters should begin operating from the tower by 2008.

"If [construction of the] Freedom Tower proceeds as quickly as is being talked about now, we may not need a temporary tower," said Grebow. The Empire State Building would serve as a temporary transmission site, as it does now, until the Freedom Tower is built. "A lot of it depends on timing," he said.

Design work incorporating the antenna structure into the current design by Studio Daniel Liebeskind will begin soon. The MTVA's architect is Kohn Pederson Fox Associates; Silverstein's architect is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

"Working on this has been fascinating," said Grebow. "The World Trade Center site has so much emotion and interest around it, and it's been a very complex project. I'm continuing to work on it, but, obviously, a big piece of my work is over."