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Empire State Building, January 2001
(We're still on the road this week,
collecting exciting Tower Sites of Future Weeks all over the
midwest - so we'll dip into the archives for another encore presentation.
This one originally ran February 21, 2001, a few months before
New York's FM and TV landscape changed dramatically with the
destruction of the World Trade Center. Next week, we'll bring
the ESB's story up to date and chronicle some of the changes
there in the last two years.)
The building to your left should require
no introduction. Rising from the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th
Street in lower midtown Manhattan, this is, of course, the Empire
State Building, the gem of Manhattan's skyline since the 1930s.
it wasn't busy being climbed by giant apes, playing backdrop
to romantic movies or having B-25s flown into its upper stories,
the Empire State was from its earliest days a natural spot for
VHF and UHF broadcasting. Before World War II, CBS and NBC used
the building for early TV and FM broadcasts, and when the war
ended, the building quickly became the home to most of New York's
TV and FM stations.
In fact, until the completion of the
World Trade Center ("the box the Empire State was delivered
in") in the seventies, the Empire State carried just about
everything on TV and FM in the Big Apple.
When the WTC took over most of the city's
TV transmitters (it's home to channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13,
31 and 47), most of the FM stations stayed behind at Empire.
Of the New York area's high-powered FM stations, the only ones
not on Empire are WBGO 88.3 (on an office building in downtown
Newark), WFUV 90.7 (whose tower in the Bronx is a story in and
of itself),WNYE 91.5 (on a city schools building in Brooklyn),
WFME 94.7 (on First Mountain in West Orange, N.J.) and the handful
of stations on World Trade (WKCR 89.9, WPAT-FM 93.1, WNYC-FM
93.9 and WKTU 103.5).
That leaves a lot of FM on the Empire
State, and we'll get there in a moment. First, look at the top
of the close-up view of the top of the building to see the TVs
that still use Empire. All the way up at the top, 442 meters
above Fifth Avenue, sits WHSE Channel 68, with WXTV Channel 41
side-mounted just below. Soon, both will be sister stations under
the Univision banner. Not easily visible here is WNYE Channel
25, just twenty meters or so above the 102nd floor observation
deck. (I suspect readers of this feature are the ones standing
on the observation deck looking up!)
we've all had the chance to see Empire from the outside, right?
It's time to ride the elevator up to floors 81 through 85 and
see what lurks within.
Behind the door to the left sits what
has to be the single most valuable room in American radio. Inside
this otherwise nondescript space sits the combiner that takes
thirteen FM signals and feeds them to the building's original
master antenna (now an auxiliary) and to the current ERI master
antenna just above the 400-meter level.
stations in question are: WXRK 92.3, WQXR 96.3, WSKQ 97.9, WRKS
98.7, WBAI 99.5, WHTZ 100.3, WQCD 101.9, WNEW 102.7, WAXQ 104.3,
WTJM 105.1, WCAA 105.9, WLTW 106.7 and WBLS 107.5. Think about
that for a minute: hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue
every year passing behind that anonymous green door. It's enough
to make your head spin (or maybe that's just all the RF!)
The combiner itself appears at the far
right; two parallel rows of big tank filters matching each station's
input to the antennas and preventing any of the output from finding
its way back to the individual transmitters.
A computerized control panel (not seen
here) keeps tabs on the combiner's performance and handles the
switching needed to use the old auxiliary master.
Three more FMs have their own antennas
just below the ERI master: WQHT 97.1, WPLJ 95.5 and WCBS-FM 101.1.
A handful of the FMs also maintain their own auxiliary antennas
on Empire. There's also one remnant of the old TV days: WCBS-TV,
channel 2, has a backup antenna at Empire that kept it on the
air when everyone else was forced off by the World Trade Center
station has its own individual transmitter room on one of these
five floors. I'm told that in the old days, these floors were
divided into much larger rooms that were occupied mainly by the
TV stations. Today, they're much smaller rooms hiding behind
unmarked doors, with the feedlines above the hallways the only
indication of what's to be found within.
To the left is a good example of an
ESB transmitter room, the main transmitter of WAXQ 104.3. This
room was recently rebuilt with two BE FM10B transmitters (remember,
all these stations end up with just over 6 kW ERP thanks to the
height of the tower!) and a small room that could be fitted out
as an emergency studio but is currently used largely for storage.
(When we bring you up to date next week,
we'll show you the innards of several other ESB transmitter rooms,
including Emmis' three-station facility, the Z100/WKTU renovated
facility, the changes in the combiner room and even a couple
of TV stations. Don't miss it!)
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