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Pacifica Settles NYC Tower Dispute

Nonprofit plans to move WBAI transmission facilities to 4 Times Square

The nonprofit Pacifica Foundation has reached a settlement with the Empire State Realty Trust that releases it from a court judgment for millions of dollars over unpaid rent at the Empire State Building.

Pacifica, which was facing a summary judgment of at least $1.8 million for breach of contract, says the settlement will allow its noncommercial WBAI(FM) to remain on the air in the country’s largest broadcast market. The settlement announcement did not include the financial amount paid by Pacifica. Nonprofit lender FJC provided funding for the settlement, according to a press release from Pacifica. FJC is a public charity based in New York City.

The settlement, announced by the Pacifica National Board, relieves “Pacifica of a $1.8 million 2017 judgment for Empire State Realty Trust” and additional rent and penalties accrued since the judgment was issued, and any remaining obligations that would have incurred after May 31, 2018,” according to the group’s press release. The agreement also lops off the final two years of WBAI’s tower lease at the Empire State Building.

[Read: Pacifica in Court Over Tower Lease Dispute]

WBAI, which has had transmission facilities on the Empire State Building since 1965, also has reached a pending agreement to relocate its transmission facilities from ESB to the antenna system at 4 Times Square in midtown Manhattan, which is owned and managed by the Durst Organization.

“The pending agreement for the new transmission site at 4 Times Square will include purchase and installation of a new transmitter, which will replace WBAI’s current obsolete and failing 28-year-old unit. Capitalization for the transmitter will be provided by the new landlord, with the cost amortized over the life of the agreement,” Pacifica says in its release.

Pacifica launched a full-blown public relations campaign in 2017 to explain its financial plight and asked listeners to take action with petitions, press releases, videos and social media in support of Pacifica and WBAI and relief from what it described as “grossly excessive annual increases in the antenna lease” by the trust. It claimed at the time that the total amount demanded by ESRT had topped $2 million.

A Radio World email query to Tom Livingston, Pacifica’s current interim executive director, seeking further comment was not immediately returned. The listener-supported broadcaster is currently in search of a permanent executive director.

The Pacifica Radio Foundation owns and operates five noncommercial “community radio stations,” including the aforementioned WBAI. It also owns KPFK(FM) in Los Angeles, KPFA(FM) in Berkeley, Calif., KPFT(FM) in Houston and WPFM(FM) in Washington. Pacifica Radio, which had its radio origins in Berkeley, dating to the peace movement surrounding World War II, also operates the Pacifica Network with approximately 200 affiliates.