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JERSEY CITY-Since 9/11, television service in the tri-state area has been severely impacted by the destruction of the Twin Towers. Most area telecasters broadcast their signals from the TV tower on top of the North Tower, and have been scrambling to find alternatives ever since. While the bulk of the tri-state region’s households subscribe to cable services, as many as 20% don’t. In this metro area of about 18 million people, that adds up to about 3.5 million people, or about one million households.

And the solution for a new tower may rest in the Garden State. In the interim, the region’s major TV stations have hooked up with the antiquated TV tower on top of the Empire State Building and a 900-foot existing tower in Alpine, NJ. The latter is insufficient in terms of its height and can’t be expanded. And while the owners of the Empire State Building have aggressively lobbied to expand that venue, the consensus among the 11 telecasting members of the new Metropolitan Television Alliance (MTVA) is that the 70-year-old structure in inadequate.

“There’s no way the Empire State Building will be the permanent site,” according to MTVA president Ed Grebow. “It does not have the structural capacity, the power capacity, the space or even the height to be the permanent location,” adds Grebow, who recently departed as deputy president of Sony Electronics for the MTVA role.

Another NYC site all but ruled out is Governor’s Island, which lies off the southern tip of Manhattan. The deactivated Coast Guard base is within eyeshot of the WTC site, but Mayor Mike Bloomberg has other plans for it, namely a combination of commercial development and a college campus. And Ground Zero has been ruled out because of the development entanglements there–the MTVA wants a functioning tower by 2005.

Enter Jersey City and Bayonne. According to insiders, the broadcast tower will end up either within Liberty State Park in the former, or the Military Ocean Terminal redevelopment site in the latter. And what a structure it would be: conceptual designs by the architectural firm of Kohn Petersen Fox Associates focus on a 2,000-foot freestanding tower. It would be the tallest such structure in the world, topping Toronto’s CN Tower by almost 200 feet. It would also be 300 feet taller than the top of the TV tower of the World Trade Center.

“We’re close to a deal,” Grebow told reporters earlier this week. “I believe it will most likely happen in New Jersey.”

The size and scope of the project has environmentalists upset, and that’s likely to be an issue. So is the amount of commercial space in the tower–KPF’s design has a major block of commercial space at 1,350 feet, or approximately the rooftop height of the North Tower. The Jersey City site in particular is pushing for the commercial space, but MTVA officials are wary, mostly for security reasons.

In any case, the tower will have to be within three miles of the former WTC site. Any farther away than that and the signal would interfere with those emanating from such other East Coast cities as Philadelphia and Boston.

According to MTVA officials, a decision on the final site is expected by the end of the year.

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