This week's installation - the transmitter site of New York's WBBR 1130 - is one that we've never featured in the past, and have long meant to get to. And yes, just getting here is a challenge. While it's easily seen from the New Jersey Turnpike, where it sits between the East and West spurs just north of exit 16W in Carlstadt, WBBR's facility is secured deep behind the fences and gates of a natural gas facility. If they're not expecting you here, the closest you'll get is a shot out the window as you drive by on the Turnpike.
Fortunately, we had the right contacts on this day in November 2002, and so we were able to get behind the gate and down the long access road to the swampy transmitter site - and what a site it is!
Some history, first: what was then Metromedia's WNEW moved in here in 1967, when its old transmitter site in Kearny, a few miles to the south, was taken by the New Jersey Turnpike for the construction of what's now the west spur. The old WNEW towers in Kearny had capacitance "top hats" on them. The site was simply abandoned, and the towers were toppled into the water and never removed. To this day, the edge of one of the "top hats" can be seen off the side of the Pulaski Skyway; it even appears in the opening credits of The Sopranos if you look very carefully (it comes up right after a shot of a church and one of a train!)
And so it was that the Turnpike paid for the construction of this site, on which little expense was spared.
There are four self-supporting towers here, three of them 255' and one 443'; the tall tower is used for the 50 kW non-directional day signal, while all four are used at night.
Enter the building today, and you see the combination of the Turnpike's original 1967 spending and the considerable additional money that Bloomberg has put into the facility since buying the station a decade ago.
The Continental 317C transmitters that WNEW used have been replaced with a pair of Nautel XL60s (the last of the Continentals was being disposed of when I visited). Upstairs, one room is filled with a giant uninterruptible power supply that's sufficient to keep one of the XL60s on the air while power is transferred from either of the two separate sources of shore power to the generator. Yes, that's a 60 kilowatt transmitter on a UPS - you don't see that every day, do you?
All the transmitter redundancy in the world is useless if there's no programming, and Bloomberg has thought that out, too: a huge storage room at the back of the building features not just engineering storage on high shelves but also a half-dozen fully equipped Bloomberg workstations that can be used by WBBR staffers in an emergency. Canvas panels come down to cover the storage shelves, and a car service is on call 24/7 to bring the staff over from Manhattan if need be.
Enough redundancy? Not hardly. Walk out to the towers, as we did, and you'll see that there's another generator next to one of the towers - and inside the doghouse at the base of the tower is a Nautel XL12 transmitter and a rack of basic studio equipment. We're pretty sure that we don't want to be around to see that "studio" ever see any use.
Next week, we'll continue our calendar tour with a visit to Santa Barbara, California. Sounds nice right about now, doesn't it?
It's here - the 2005 Tower Site Calendar is now shipping, with WBBR as the May 2005 image! Click here for ordering information!