Live from the top of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Its tippity-top marks the highest human-made structure in Brooklyn. It looks like a gaunt Eiffel Tower, a red light blinking at its pinnacle. But have you ever wondered why a radio tower was attached to the roof of Brooklyn Technical HS on Fort Greene Place at all?

It was a mystery shrouded in apathy until an impertinent outsider, who wandered through the neighborhood a few weeks back, asked me to look into it.

And so I began to wonder. When I brought the matter to the attention of Ursula Hegewisch, the new chair of the Fort Greene Association, she began to wonder, too.

“I live right across the street from it, and I’m staring at it right now,” said Hegewisch, as we chatted conspiratorially on the phone. “I just hope it won’t be decorating a luxury condo tower anytime soon.”

Still hungry for information, I called Brooklyn Tech Principal Randy Asher, who was as helpful as he could be, given his utter lack of familiarity with the enormous phallus on his rooftop.

Asher speculated that it was used by a radio station next to Westinghouse HS, which is located at the nearby Metrotech campus, but he couldn’t elaborate.

“I cannot provide more information at this time, but I am curious and I look forward to your article,” Asher wrote in a cryptic e-mail.

Asher may be courtly, but could a tower, which rises nearly 600 feet above Dekalb Avenue — even higher than the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower — exist in a parallel universe invisible to even the all-seeing eyes of the school principal?


Anyway, after countless other phone calls and e-mails that I will not recount, I finally hit the jackpot with Michael Weiss, who graduated from Brooklyn Tech in 1957 (back when radio was in its heyday and television the new threat on the block). Not only did Weiss study at Tech, but he later taught physics there, worked as a guidance counselor and was the assistant principal.

According to Weiss, back in the day, Brooklyn Tech ran what was known was the “homebound program.” If, for whatever reason, a student had to stay home for an extended period of time, he or she could sign up for certain classes like biology and English that were taught in a radio studio, the lectures transmitted via the antenna to rabbit ears throughout the city.

“I actually worked on my lunch period in the office that serviced the homebound population, which numbered in the hundreds,” said Weiss on the phone.

“Everybody knew the antenna; it was an icon,” said Weiss.

And how about this nugget: the antenna that now rises above Brooklyn Tech is not the original one. According to Weiss, it’s actually a rebuilt antenna installed in the 1970s.

Of course, radio soon began to fade as a cutting-edge technology. By the time Weiss left Brooklyn Tech, in 1985, computers had superceded radio in the halls of the esteemed high school.

Now, Tech is too busy teaching students how to upload pod-casts to the World Wide Web to worry about any sort of technology that requires antennae.

But the antenna has stayed within the city’s portfolio. WNYE is now a part of the NYC TV conglomerate, which produces a surprising number of good (albeit propaganda-laden) shows about the city, including “It’s My Park!” (Full disclosure: the show is made by a buddy of mine. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.)

And, to appease viewers like me, who are too cheap for cable, NYC TV transmits its Channel 25 programming via cable and broadcast, straight to my rabbit ears.

Dana Rubinstein is a reporter for The Brooklyn Paper.

The Kitchen Sink

Oldies but goodies from Bishop Loughlin’s classes of 1942, ’47, ’52, ’57, ’62, ’67, ’72 and ’77 (and not so-oldies from the classes of ’82, ’87, ’92 and 1997), will reunite on Oct. 20 and remember the traumatic days of high school. To register, call (718) 857-2700 x2251. …

Clinton Hill artist and philanthropist Danny Simmons and artist Daniel Scheffer are painting a mural at Sunset Park’s Tabla Rasa Gallery, then cutting it up and selling pieces for $50 a pop on Oct. 7. All of the money from the “PUMP IT UP!” show will go to buy Playpump systems, which churn out potable water in rural Africa. Tabla Rasa Gallery is at 224 48th St., between Second and Third avenues in Sunset Park). For information, call (718) 833-9100 or visit …

Clinton Hill–based branding firm Push Creative is one of three African-American–helmed firms to win a million-dollar contract to promote Lexus vehicles to African-American drivers in urban and suburban areas. Congrats!

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Rabbit Ears says:
Wow! Thanks! Long live television antennas. I love watching TV while I hang out in the park.
Sept. 28, 2007, 7:57 am
Mike Conway from Fort Greene says:
You showed the street as "Dekalb Avenue." Spelled correctly the K should be capitalized. Check the street signs and signs in the subway. Thanks :)
May 25, 2:29 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

MetroPlus Roosevelt Savings Bank Coney Island Hospital Brookdale VillageCareMax

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: