Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
There are some areas to which we just don’t ever seem to do justice in this space. We’re notoriously overdue, for instance, to spend some quality time visiting our radio friends in Maine and the rest of northern New England – and across the border, we haven’t been in the Maritimes since (can it really be?) 1998.
Somewhat closer to home, Long Island has always been problematic, too. It’s just far enough from our downstate “home base” in Rockland County to be a difficult day trip, and we tend to have enough to do in New York City to make an overnight jaunt eastward to the island a low priority.
But sometimes things come together, as they did in early July, when we met up with RadioInsight’s Lance Venta for two fun-filled days heading out the LIE to catch up on the radio scene, starting with a drive past the AM sticks of Nassau County.
Connoisseur’s WHLI (1100) had rebuilt its AM towers since the last time we were out here along the Southern State Parkway; gone now are the “WHLI” calls that used to be a landmark here, though the flip side, at least, is that these sticks will now stay standing for many years to come. (The old ones dated back to the station’s sign-on back in 1947, which is also when its FM sister, now WKJY 98.3, made its debut. Happy 70th anniversary!)
Two more AMs flank WHLI to the north and south – a few miles up the Meadowbrook State Parkway, little WTHE (1520 Mineola) plays gospel music from sunup until sundown from its combined studio/transmitter site in an industrial area near Roosevelt Field Mall, and just a mile to the south of WHLI, venerable WGBB (1240 Freeport) is now doing leased-time ethnic programming, newly augmented by translator W240DF on 95.9 atop its AM tower.
Where to next? How about 20 miles or so to the east, out into Suffolk County for a visit to the Ronkonkoma studios of the JVC Broadcasting cluster, up on the second floor of an office park just down the road from MacArthur Airport?
John Carracciolo’s stations here run the gamut from oldies to Spanish tropical to dance, and you know you’re in a radio station the moment you walk in, thanks to the nifty model radio tower (complete with miniature FM bays!) and vintage radio model that decorate the lobby. Just off the lobby is the studio for the newest format here, the “Oldies 98.1” that runs on the HD2 of his WPTY (105.3) and on translator W251BY (98.1 Patchogue).
The rest of the studios for this cluster are around the corner and down the hall – country WJVC (96.1 Center Moriches), “La Fiesta” WBON (98.5 Westhampton) and rhythmic “Party 105” WPTY (105.3 Calverton-Roanoke).
The Party studios are, fittingly, colorfully lit and complete with turntables for live mixshows (this is, among other things, the on-air home of Carracciolo’s partner Vic Latino); across the hall, there’s a rack room that feeds all of these streams out to their respective transmitters, which we’ll see in next week’s installment.
But wait – there’s one more JVC station that we haven’t mentioned yet, because it does its thing from a separate studio location over at the airport. WRCN (103.9 Riverhead) used to be a rock station, but now it’s “LI News Radio,” broadcasting its conservative talk format from what used to be an airline baggage office right next to the bag-claim carousels at MacArthur Airport.
You don’t get much more visible than this location, right there where anybody traveling in or out of the airport can’t possibly miss the prominent signage and big studio window looking right out on baggage claim. “LI News Radio” does its own morning show here, of course, and it’s often used by visiting syndicated talk hosts, too, especially Long Island’s own Sean Hannity.
It’s a simple little space – the glassed-in studio on the corner and the control room right next to it, plus a small office in back – but it’s also a brilliant little piece of promotion, and one we’d love to see other broadcasters emulate. (John’s always happy to show it off to anyone who’d like to learn how it’s done…)
We didn’t realize we were chronicling a bit of history on our next stop, another few miles to the east where Patchogue meets Medford.
This is the longtime home of WLIM (1580 Patchogue), and more recently the diplexed home of WNYG (1440 Medford, relocated eastward from Babylon), and if these towers look rather old and rusty, they were.
Just a few months later, one of these towers crumpled in a windstorm, temporarily silencing the Chicago-based programming that owner Polnet has been running here for the last few years. (Polnet also lost a tower over in Rockland County at its WRKL 910, which has yet to be replaced.)
From here, we do a bit of backtracking, heading westward along Route 27 into Islip to drive by the two-tower directional array of WLIE (540 Islip), which pumps out 10 kilowatts of “Radio Adonai” religion by day, dropping to 220 watts at night. The big self-supporter also carries Connoisseur’s WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore), newly non-directional after Connoisseur bought WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford) up in Connecticut and took it directional. (There’s still an older WBZO aux antenna on the other WLIE tower.)
And how do you finish up a summer day on Long Island? Right there in Islip at the independent Long Island Ducks, where we enjoyed a pleasant evening out at Bethpage Ballpark, just across the Southern State from the WLIE/WBZO site.
(Join us again next week in this same space for day two of our Long Island adventure, including a guest shot on the legendary WLNG!)
Thanks to John Carracciolo for the tours and Mike Erickson and Bob Ottone for the Ducks game!
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And don’t miss a big batch of Long Island IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: More Long Island