Empire State Building Wins Summary Judgment Against WBAI In Rent Dispute

99.5 WBAI New York Empire State Building RentJudge Gerald Lebovits has ruled with a summary judgment in favor of the Empire State Realty Trust in its lawsuit against Pacifica Foundation’s 99.5 WBAI New York for unpaid rent in the amount of $1,819,687.52.

WBAI had sought to continue to pay the $12,000 a month as opposed to the nearly $45-$53,000 per month its lease was for on the argument that they had an oral agreement, but the judge ruled that there was no written agreement to go along with it. In a statement on WBAI.org, Pacifica lawyer Sam Himmelstein stated “This was about as bad a result as we could have expected.”

Pacifica must pay the money due immediately. In an audio clip on WBAI’s page, General Manager Berthold Reimers made the argument that WBAI or any station should not have to pay any money for a tower lease because it is a publicly licensed operation. Pacifica states that it intends to use “Political Pressure” to get the judgment overturned.

WBAI holds a Construction Permit to relocate to 4 Times Square with 10kW/282m, but is contractually bound to the Empire State lease for a few more years.

Original Report 1/30: The ongoing saga of the Pacifica Foundation and its station’s attempts for survival has taken another turn as a lawsuit filed by the Empire State Building over unpaid tower rent by 99.5 WBAI New York has been made public.

The ESB sued Pacifica in November 2016 for the $1,357,429.71 owed in rent and late fees plus interest, costs, disbursements, and attorney’s fees. WBAI’s lease runs contractually through 2020 with the station paying for tower and combiner space, backup antenna/combiner, and a transmitter room on the 81st floor.

WBAI holds a Construction Permit to relocate to 4 Times Square should it be evicted from the Empire State Building that expires in July. But with the Pacifica Foundation struggling survive, a judge’s ruling to force payment could help expedite whatever the group needs to do to raise funds.

The WBAI-NowThen blog has posted the full filing including the rent contract signed in 2005.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

4 Comments


  1. The saga of Pacifica is probably the best radio soap opera (in a sordid but sarcastic way) since the cancellation of “Ma Perkins” in November, 1960.


  2. What will most likely happen next if Pacifica doesn’t pay immediately?


  3. Good luck with that “political pressure” thing.

    Actually, Pacifica may be best served reading this piece by said Judge Gerald Lebovits on how people lose cases just like this one. (In all seriousness, it’s a really good read.)


  4. From the lead item in today’s Tom Taylor Now (at http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=78b390ff9f5b002e3f050238c&id=e6bf1ef1c3)…

    “NOW has the memo to staff from Pacifica Executive Director Bill Crosier – ‘Here’s the news from court in NY – not good…I don’t want to scare away donors in our fund drives with the word bankruptcy, but people need to know what when/if we go into bankruptcy (more likely now), it will be Chapter 11 bankruptcy (look it up), in order to continue operating. It will NOT mean that we’d shut down.’ Crosier says ‘Chapter 11 brings with it additional problems but would stop collection efforts by ESRT and allow us to keep operating while we develop a plan to pay off the debts.'”

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