‘We’re moving in May!’

By TED WADDELL
Posted 2/9/22

LIBERTY, NY — It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.

On February 12, 1990, Radio Catskill WJFF, a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station, first took to the …

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‘We’re moving in May!’

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LIBERTY, NY — It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.

On February 12, 1990, Radio Catskill WJFF, a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station, first took to the local airwaves from a volunteer-built studio in Jeffersonville, NY. It was one of the few hydro-powered stations in the nation.

But the years passed. Listenership expanded to more of Sullivan County, the Catskills and northeast Pennsylvania. The old dam providing electricity ceased to provide juice, and folks realized it was time to make a few changes.

The original analog broadcast systems were outdated, and the original two-story studio was getting cramped, with mice once chewing through the mazes of wiring snaking everywhere.

In 2015 Barbara Martinsons stepped up to the plate as a major benefactor to the arts and offered to donate a former market along Route 52, near the intersection with the Ferndale-Loomis Road just outside Liberty, NY, to the local public radio station.

After all the environmental impacts were evaluated, WJFF formally accepted the donation a year later, and the original Catskill Market property of 14.3 acres was later shaved to approximately four acres, including three structures, so the rest could be returned to local tax rolls.

Work on transforming the old market building began in the pre-COVID era, took a short break as Phase 1 was completed, and is now back on track with Phase 2 and a fundraising campaign to complete switching operations from the original site to its new and expanded location.

The plan is that the move from the studios and offices in Jeffersonville to Liberty will  be completed by late spring this year.

Billed as “Building a Sound Future,” to date the capital campaign has raised more than half of its goal of $300,000, but additional funds are needed to complete the transformation project.

Renovations have been underway since the fall of 2020, with early stages of the construction carried out by Sullivan County BOCES, with Collier Construction under contract to complete the building project.

Collier Construction previously worked on the Shadowland Stages project in Ellenville, while architect Kenneth Bovo’s projects have included the restoration/renovation of the historic Stone Church in Craigsmoor for the nonprofit Friends of the Stone Church group. They also worked on the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg for the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop.

Out with the old...

... and in with the new

Tim Bruno, WJFF’s general manager, has extensive background in broadband and media productions. He started out with a part-time job at a commercial radio station while in high school, a school in Indiana that by coincidence—or maybe not—had its own radio station.

“It was cool,” recalled Bruno, adding that his career path after graduation included stints at “NBC News,” “Dateline NBC,” the “Today Show,” at Viacom, and most recently, as vice president at HSN in charge of talent and the guests.

“This is going to be a great transformation, not only for us, but the community as well,” said Bruno in describing the two-phase project to convert the old market building into a state-of-the-art, all-digital radio station that would feature studios, offices and a community gathering place.

“It’s a platform for the entire community to broadcast out of,” he added, noting that Radio Catskill has a potential audience of 100,000 folks out there in local radioland.

Calling it the “silver lining” of the pandemic, Bruno said the station has been able to further forge partnerships with other media outlets: the River Reporter every week, contributions from the Shawangunk Journal twice a month, and most recently, the River Newsroom for in-depth coverage of universal issues.

“The new facility will provide Radio Catskill with a dynamic and modern facility… it will have three studio spaces, including two state-of-the-art digital broadcast production studios and a third studio for hosting live interviews, panel discussions and musical performances,” said Bruno.

While Phase 1 is complete—foundation expanded, leveled and reinforced; roof reframed and shingled; exterior siding repaired and repainted; interior framed out; and the electric and plumbing roughed in and ready to connect—there’s still a lot of work to be done with “just under $150,000 to raise.”

“WJFF has served its listeners for over 30 years with a mix of national and international public radio, and locally produced news, public affairs and music programming, but the aging quarters in Jeffersonville operate with outdated equipment, a lack of accessibility and insufficient space  for a comfortable work environment or to accommodate community gatherings,” said Judith Schwartzstein, Radio Catskill’s chair of the development and community outreach committee, and a member of the station’s board of trustees.

“The new building will change all that… all in all, the move will put Radio Catskill on a new footing, prepared to address the challenges ever-present in our communities with news, information and opportunities for Catskills voices to be heard,” she added.

Taking a page out of musical history, perhaps Sam Cooke summed it up rather well in 1964 in the lyrics to “A Change is Gonna Come,” released in the 1964 album “Ain’t That Good News.”

“It’s been a long/a long time coming/But I know a change is gonna come/Oh, yes it will.”

For information about the project and/or to donate, contact Radio Catskill WJFF, P.O. Box 546, Jeffersonville, NY 12748, call 845/482-4141 or email Tim Bruno, general manager at tim@wjffradio.org

 

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