- Politicians from across the South Fork stood outside the studio of WLIU-FM 88.3 on the SUNY Stonybrook Southampton Campus to show their support for the station's efforts to survive the university's divestment.
The rally was led by New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele
(R-Sag Harbor) and State Senator Ken LaValle
(R-1), who will be ushering the station's efforts to create a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation through the State Education Department and Board of Regents, which will have to approve the entity's creation. That process "generally takes about four or five months," Thiele explained, however "we don't have four or five months." LaValle, who is the ranking Republican
member of the Senate's Education Committee (formerly the chairman), "will use the clout that I have in high education to make sure this happens in a timely manner," he assured.
An overwhelming number of local officials attended the Wednesday morning press conference to join in support of WLIU's efforts to maintain public radio on the East End.
Along with the blessing of state agencies, the new non-profit will need to be tax-exempt as well, which means filing the proper applications with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Former Sag Harbor Mayor Gregory Ferraris, who is a certified accountant, has agreed to donate his services for the application process pro-bono
to ensure everything goes smoothly, according to Thiele.
Thiele lauded WLIU as a bastion of entertainment, culture and education on the East End, however "this station goes much deeper than that, it's part of our community fabric."
"We are going to be successful," LaValle asserted confidently, "We're all going to say, 'Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can.'"
Media producer and publisher Porter Bibb, who has been at the head of the station's efforts to transfer control over to a community non-profit, echoed LaValle's use of Obama's campaign slogan. "There's been such an unbelievable outpouring of support, even from WLIU's biggest competitors," he stated, "Not just, 'Yes we can,' it's 'Yes we will.'" According to Bibb, they are putting together a bid to purchase the station at "a full and fair price," maintaining that approximately $3 million would be sufficient to keep the station afloat. If successful, the new station's call letters would be WPPB, Peconic Public Broadcasting.
New York State Senator Ken LaValle plans to add his weight behind pushing the station's non-profit organization through the approval process.
WLIU's managing director Dr. Wally Smith
tempered any animosity that may be directed toward the university. "In fairness to LIU, they have invested an immense amount of money over the years," he asserted, however "they have been squeezed by this economic crisis." While there is little that can be done to keep the station affiliated with the university, local public radio is an "endangered species," Smith explained, "and we need to preserve our slice."
Standing beside Thiele and LaValle in support of public radio were Southampton Town Councilmembers Anna Throne-Holst
, Chris Nuzzi
, Nancy Grabowski and Sally Pope, former Southampton Town Supervisor and current Commissioner of Economic Development and Workforce Housing Patrick "Skip" Heaney, Sag Harbor Village Trustee Robby Stein, East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach
and Southampton Village
Mayor Mark Epley
, as well as a representative from Congressman Tim Bishop
's (D-1) office, as the representative was in Washington working on healthcare legislation.
"We are unalterably committed to its future and doing whatever needs to be done to save it," Thiele assured.