While rhetoric flows, WFUV and opponents seek alternative tower site

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Two views of the tower from the botanical garden. It's more prominent in the garden's photo.

How does the tower look from the New York Botanical Garden? The garden posted
the left photo on its website and WFUV posted the one at right.

Fordham University’s WFUV-FM and its opponents across the street at the New York Botanical Garden have been quietly pursuing an alternative site for the station’s tower, even while their defenders sparred publicly in FCC forums June 27.

After eight years of legal struggles with the botanical garden, WFUV hangs its antenna from a tower that, despite being cut short by halted construction, offends the garden’s management.

Both sides are encouraged by progress of negotiations for the alternative site. Garden spokesman Karl Lauby says only that the site is “up north” and WFUV General Manager Ralph Jennings won’t discuss its location at all. Neither wants to set off new opposition or alert landowners that their site is a rare one.

The site would be rare, Jennings says, because WFUV has looked at 30 sites in addition to the Fordham campus and found no affordable land where the signal would abide by FCC interference rules while avoiding hostile neighbors and LaGuardia Airport flight paths.

The pending FCC issue, topic of eight hours of testimony on June 27, is whether the tower violates a provision of the National Historic Preservation Act that covers FCC-licensed structures. The botanical garden is a National Historic Landmark. The FCC will accept written comments through Aug. 1 and hold an additional meeting with interested parties in Washington on Aug. 14.

WFUV fans at the FCC forums wore T-shirts emblazoned “No tower, no tunes,” but Lauby says the station need not go off the air to get its tower out of sight.

If the new site falls through, Jennings hopes the historic preservation battle will be the last in the tower war. Jennings says the botanical garden already has exhausted its city and state appeals. But Lauby says the garden may push for WFUV to move its antenna back to its former site atop a major campus building. He contends that high-tech measures could keep the lower antenna site in compliance with FCC radiation limits.

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