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Towers Still Seek a Home

Two of the more interesting tower issues in the country—one in Denver, the other in New York—continue to zigzag their way to a resolution.

Earlier this month, Colorado's Jefferson County Board of Commissioners granted six Denver broadcasters the right to build a new consolidated tower on Mt. Morrison, located 12 miles west of Denver. But the champagne corks aren't popping yet, because the board won't officially sign off on the vote until March 11.

The waiting period has area broadcasters hesitant to discuss their feelings over what is expected to be, in the end, a successful effort. Call it good old-fashioned superstition: the fear of saying "We're ecstatic" and then finding on March 11 that one of the board members has changed his or her mind.

As of now, the board has approved a plan for the construction of a trapezoid-shaped lattice structure 120 feet across on the west side and 60 feet on the east side. It is also 52 feet deep and 70 feet high with top-mounted antennas not to exceed 70 feet in height.

The approval is important for KRMA-TV Denver's move to DTV broadcasting as well as the future of KPXC-TV Denver and the local Telemundo and EWTN: Global Catholic Network stations. The rezoning involves about 12 acres owned by Bear Creek Development Corp.

Meanwhile, in New York, which seemed less than interested in having a tower within city limits after 9/11, appears to have renewed interest. Over the past year, the Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA) has dealt with a city administration that seemed intent on making it as hard as possible to find a home for the tower. Before too long, Bayonne, N.J., jumped to the top of the list for suitable locations.

In recent weeks, however, the city has begun to be receptive to the idea. What exactly triggered the turnaround is unclear, but the city's growing fiscal crisis may have played a role. Property taxes are jumping 18.5%, unemployment is nearly 8.5%, and tax revenues are down substantially as Wall Street continues to falter. The Presidents Day blizzard is expected to cost the city $20 million to clean up, only compounding the crisis. Suddenly, the tower's potential to contribute upwards of $4 million in annual tax revenues may seem more attractive than it once did.

Responding to a New Yorker
magazine correspondent's question about the tower situation, Janel Patterson, spokesperson for the New York Economic Development Corporation, said the city is interested again. "The Bloomberg Administration wants to see broadcast services fully restored to all residents in five boroughs," she said in a statement. "The New York City Economic Development Corporation is working with the Metropolitan Television Alliance to identify an appropriate location for a new TV antenna within the city."

MTVA President Ed Grebow said in a statement of his own that the Alliance appreciates the city's interest in helping it find a suitable site for a broadcast tower in New York City. "While our negotiations to locate the tower in Bayonne are well-advanced, we welcome New York City's renewed interest in our important project."

Whether the city's effort is too little too late remains to be seen, but the clock is ticking. The original timetable was to have a site selected by Sept. 11, 2002, but it became obvious months earlier that Sept.11 was an impossible goal. Five months later, substantial progress has been made, but a final deal has yet to be signed off.