Sunday, September 15, 2013

WNYC Transmitter House at WNYC Transmitter Park

Transmitter Park
WNYC Transmitter Park
WNYC, the idea for what was then a city owned and operated radio station began in 1922 and eventually went on the air on July 8th, 1924. As high rises were erected and New York's skyline began to take shape dead spots developed due to the obstructions that the new buildings created and by 1934 the city considered shutting down the station, in part, due to the dead spot issue. However, a citizens committee appointed by Mayor La Guardia proposed some reforms including the relocation of the transmitter to Greenpoint. In 1937 the WNYC transmitter was moved from the municipal building in Downtown Manhattan to the Greenpoint facility which was built by the WPA.[1] The former WNYC broadcasting building was designed in the Art Deco style and once had two 304 foot antenna towers.[2] The transmitter in Greenpoint remained in use until 1990 when WNYC broadcasting was relocated to the Meadowlands in New Jersey.[1]

Transmitter House
WNYC Transmitter Building

WNYC (AM 820, FM 93.9) provides a radio news source about civic and cultural events around the city in addition to child-oriented programming and music programming. Today, WNYC Radio is the most listened to public radio station in the U.S. The station, which was once owned by New York City is now an independent station supported by listener donations, as well as contributions from corporations and foundations. WNYC is a member station of NPR, as well as PRI and is New York's source for NPR broadcasts.

When I used to commute to my companies' Long Island office, I tuned into WNYC's AM station since the longer wave length of AM allowed me to pick up the signal far outside the city; however, while WNYC seems to be going strong, AM radio like print journalism and broadcast television is under pressure from technological displacement in our digital age. In addition to shrinking market share, AM broadcasting which was surpassed by FM and more recently Satellite Radio and web based broadcasting is now being threatened by interference from smart phones and other consumer electronics. There is currently a debate on weather or not to convert the AM frequency for use by other devices. Ajit Pai of the FCC is advocating for the salvage and overhaul of AM broadcasting and given my affinity for relics of a bygone era I appreciate his quest.[3]

Metal apparatus on building roof of unknown purpose with Art Deco detailing
Art Deco Detailing
Whenever a project site has historic structures or artifacts many designers will attempt to include them into their park design. Such is the case with Transmitter Park. According to the EDC website the transmitter house has been converted into a cafe; although, I have yet to see any action regarding the building. In addition to the historic building there are also remnants of a ferry terminal that opened in 1840 and was active during the second half of the 19th century until the bridges and tunnels we use today were constructed, rendering the ferry obsolete. The original ferry was operated by Alpheus D. Rollins who took the first passengers to East 10th Street in Manhattan for 3 cents.[2] The pedestrian bridge crosses the surviving relic of the old ferry terminal which has been excavated and included in the park's design as a tidal wetland.

Tidal wetland built in historic ferry landing
Transmitter Park Tidal Wetland & Historic Ferry Landing

The wetland at Transmitter Park looks like it could use a little maintenance. It does not look much different than it did almost a year ago when I visited the site after Hurricane Sandy.

Transmitter House Cornerstone
WNYC Transmitter House Plaque

Manhattan Skyline at dusk from Transmitter Park
Manhattan at Dusk from WNYC Transmitter Park
Until a few years ago most of the good views of Manhattan were from New Jersey, however dramatic skyline views are now accessible from the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfronts. 


  1. "History"
  2. "Greenpoint to Lift Skyline With Pair Of Radio Towers" Newspaper (no citation indicated). 15 December, 1935.
  3. Wyatt, Edward. "A Quest to Save AM Before It's Lost in the Static" New York Times 9 September 2013.


  1. You need to check out the following links:
    not a possible antenna base...part of art deco design. 304 foot towers came down years ago.

    1. Hi Andy, This is one of my first blog posts and I am in the process of revising it to include more historic information. The information included in the linked web pages will be helpful. Thank you for the links.