Vol. 13, No. 8 April 20 - May 3, 2000


NYBG Exits Tower Track


Frustrated with the lack of progress in its three years of behind-closed-doors negotiating with Fordham University, The New York Botanical Garden has pulled out of the sessions which were intended to result in a compromise over the radio tower the university began to build on its grounds in 1994.

The NYBG believes that the tower, located 100 yards away from its property. intrudes on the bucolic views the institution is famous for, and detracts from its glass conservatory, which is a National Historic Landmark.

During the negotiations, mediated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the parties attempted to designate an alternative site for the tower. "The whole process was moving very, very slowly and we were meeting sporadically," said NYBG official Denis O'Connor.

Joe Muriana, vice president of Government and Urban Affairs at Fordham University, said getting third parties to consent to alternative properties was a slow process.

"We were a little surprised [by NYBG's action] but I understand their frustration," Muriana said. "At times we felt like pulling out."

With the negotiations now over, the next step will be public comment. The FCC will designate how this phase will be carried out, which could include a public hearing or a request for written comments. Then the FCC will make a final ruling over the fate of the tower, which broadcasts the college's radio station WFUV-FM (90.7).

Even with the public comment phase approaching, it is unclear how long it will take to reach a settlement. "There is no time estimate," O'Connor said. "We just wanted to take it one step closer."

In the meantime, the parties will continue to try and identify alternative sites. Muriana said the university is also looking into new technology that could alter the structure of the tower. Although the option of a shorter tower was discussed in mediation, Muriana said reception problems already exist with the tower at 260 feet. And the NYBG thinks the tower's current height is already too high.

Fordham University began construction of the tower in 1994 with permits from the New York City Department of Buildings and the FCC. Fordham scored a victory when the state's highest court ruled that the tower was a "valid accessory use" to the university. But the FCC later prevented further construction after it ruled that building the tower to its intended height would require a federal environmental review and was subject to local zoning.


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