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October 30 - November 6, 2003

Four Times Square, October 2003

In last week's encore Site of the Week, we showed you what New York's Four Times Square looked like in early 2001, not long after the building had been completed and Clear Channel's five FM stations had signed on as the first tenants.

Of course, it was just a few months later that 9/11 rolled around - and with the destruction of the World Trade Center, there was suddenly a pressing need for more FM and TV antenna space in the nation's biggest market.

Even before the towers fell, Clear Channel's WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) automatically switched over to its 4TS auxiliary transmitter when power failed at its Trade Center site.

Within a few weeks after the attack, Four Times Square became home to three more FM stations: WNYC-FM (93.9) and Spanish Broadcasting Systems' WPAT-FM (93.1 Paterson NJ) and WSKQ (97.9). WNYC-FM and WPAT-FM had used the World Trade Center as their primary site, while WSKQ simply took advantage of 4TS' auxiliary capabilities.

For most of late 2001 and 2002, Four Times Square was thus serving as a primary transmitter site for three major FMs (WPAT-FM, WNYC-FM and WKTU), all of which subsequently built new primary facilities using the Empire State Building master antenna.

Four Times Square's owner, the Durst Organization, quickly began planning for an ambitious expansion of what had become a valuable site. By the first anniversary of 9/11, design work was underway on a 385-foot mast that would bring the tip of the building to 1168 feet above street level, less than 300 feet below the top of the Empire State Building itself.

The FM antenna and its 132-foot support structure, barely four years old, was dismantled in April and a temporary one-bay antenna installed atop the giant sign panel on the east side of the building.

A huge gantry was assembled on the north side of the roof in late spring, and during the summer months pieces of the mast were hauled up the side of the building - and just a few weeks ago, the new mast was topped off, instantly creating a very visible landmark on the New York skyline, especially as seen from across the Hudson.

The new mast will include enough antenna space to handle every FM, analog TV and digital TV broadcaster in the city. It's topped with a channel 68 antenna for WFUT-TV, one of two stations owned by Univision, the first TV tenant to sign on. Below that, two Dielectric broadband antennas handle the rest of the UHF spectrum, and below that are master antennas for VHF high and low band and for FM.

Inside the building, it's been a busy time as well. The FM transmitter floor that looked so empty back in 2001 has filled up with new transmitter rooms on the perimeter and an expanded combiner at the center. One floor up, what was an empty room in 2001 is now a construction staging area, with two working transmitters already in place. Columbia University's WKCR (89.9), the fourth station displaced from the World Trade Center, installed that new Harris transmitter and made Four Times Square its primary transmitter site in the summer of 2003. Univision's WFUT-DT (Channel 53) is also using 4TS as its primary site, with its Harris Ranger transmitter hiding behind a plywood shield to keep it safe from construction traffic. Tucked in a corner behind WKCR are pieces of one of the VHF antennas destined to be installed on the mast shortly.

Around the corner, the pieces of the WABC-DT (Channel 45) transmitter are coming together as well, with test broadcasts expected from 4TS any day now. Both WABC-DT and WABC-TV (Channel 7) have signed on as tenants, and two floors below this room a new mezzanine floor is being built above the 50th floor generators and HVAC equipment to house ABC, Univision and perhaps other TV clients as well someday soon.

In any case, New York again has a second viable FM/TV site in addition to Empire, which will be critically important as Empire gets ready for more modifications to its own antenna systems and the city's TV stations try to figure out what their permanent future post-World Trade Center will look like.

Special thanks to John Lyons, manager of communications and broadcast operations for the Durst Organization and 4 Times Square, for his continued hospitality and willingness to share information and pictures about this exciting project!

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