The Final Empire State Building Crisis

After decades of WBAI falling behind on the rent at the Empire State Building (ESB), where the station's transmitter and antenna are located, the amount in arrears became impossible for WBAI to pay. To make matters worse the contract that had been signed in August 2005, by then PNB Chair and therefore Pacifica's de facto interim Executive Director Ambrose Lane Sr. provided for the rent to escalate to the point where the rent over the last three years of the lease would amount to over $3,000,000.

Interim Executive Director Bill Crosier sent out an E-mail to all of Pacifica on September 26, 2017, regarding the Empire State Building crisis and the pension plans that Pacifica had not been funding for a while.

On October 4, 2017, The Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) won its case in court. The next day the Pacifica Foundation made the following official statement about this:

Judge Lebovits denied WBAI's motion for unconscionability, and gave ESRT a summary judgment of $1.8 plus million, plus attorney's fees. The latest invoice from ESRT was for $2.4 million, including fees up till last month. Pacifica's national board of directors will meet Thursday night to decide the next steps for the station.

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, stated Bill Crosier, Interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation. There's going to be some pain involved to come up with the money for the judgment, but we will get through it.

In a statement to staff, Crosier said, We do have some options, but they are more limited now, and none are easy.

Here is the October 11, 2017, WBAI LSB Treasurer's Report which refers to this situation.

Long time Pacifica activist, former member of the Pacifica National Board and former Pacifica National Board Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg posted an Open Letter To The Pacifica Community addressing this and other dire financial issues on October 21, 2017.

The General Managers of KPFA, KPFK, KPFT and WPFW, along with the CFO and a number of others from the Pacifica Radio Archives and the National Office have signed a letter to the PNB and NFC advocating a signal swap of WBAI's 99.5 FM frequency. Here is a copy of that letter (it's a 21 MB file).

Pacifica reached an agreement with the Empire State Realty Trust in April, 2018. Click here for the press release about the settlement from Pacifica Executive Director Tom Livingston.

In order to pay off the huge settlement with the ESRT, which reportedly came to $3,085,000, the PNB decided that Pacifica needed to take out a loan. This loan was accomplished in March 2018. The exact details of the loan are not publicly known. It is known from Pacifica's FY17 audit that the loan is for $3,265,000. Pacifica will have to pay interest starting in September or October 2019, at a rate of $22,000 to $24,000 per month, according to statements made at a meeting of the National Finance Committee by former PNB Chair Nancy Sorden. There will be a balloon payment of the principal of the loan due in March or April 2021. The FY17 audit makes the following references to the loan: Loan covenants: Under the loan, the Foundation is subject to specific loan covenants, some of which are summarized as follows:

ERISA is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 which is the law governing the pensions, which Pacifica has not been paying for so long.

On May 31, 2018, WBAI switched to a new transmitter and antenna facility at 4 Times Square.

While the people in charge of the Empire State Realty Trust are no longer directly threatening WBAI and Pacifica the legacy of their actions, and the inept actions of the 2005, PNB and PNB Chairs of that period, is still looming with no good outcome apparent.

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