Pacifica Radio’s WBAI (99.5) New York is on the hook for nearly $2 million in back rent, tower fees and related costs after a judge ruled against the company in its dispute with Empire State Realty Trust. The Trust filed suit against Pacifica last February alleging the radio group owed it $1.35 million in back rent and tower fees, interest and attorney costs.
That plus other assorted costs bought the total to more than $2 million. Now ESRT has been awarded a summary judgement of $1.8 million plus attorney’s fees.
In a posting on its website, WBAI says it needs to raise more than $1.8 million “immediately.” Pacifica Network and WBAI attorney Sam Himmelstein of Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph says, “This was about as bad a result as we could have expected” and that political pressure is what is needed now.
Pacifica accused ESRT of price gouging and “holding the network hostage” with a contract that required the broadcaster to pay tower rent that increased about 9% per year. Pacifica said its current rent of more than $500,000 per year is four times the going rate in midtown Manhattan. Pacifica also attempted to get ESRT to release it from its tower lease, which began in June 2005 and expires in April 2020, to allow it to move to the 4 Times Square tower site.
“All stations should continue doing what they are doing—bringing great news, music and public affairs that the other stations won’t let you hear,” Bill Crosier, the interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, said in a memo to employees, as reported by Real Estate Weekly. “There’s going to be some pain involved to come up with the money for the judgment, but we will get through it.”