WFMU-FM struggling to recover from Sandy


WFMU, New Jersey’s/metro NYC’s much-loved freeform station @ 91.1 FM, has been off the air since Hurricane Sandy and just came back up on 11/6. The basement of the independent radio station didn’t flood, but the station did lose electricity and all of its telephone lines. Power was out at the primary transmitter, which stands atop the Watchung Mountains in West Orange, NJ.

“The Hudson River came right up to our block,” station manager Ken Freedman told The Star-Ledger. “The streets behind the building were underwater, too. WFMU was literally on an island.”

Says the station’s website:

“WFMU’s Silent Fundraiser [“Hell & High Water”] has segued into Hurricane Recovery Mode as we uncover more and more damage at our studios and transmitter sites, combined with the enormous loss we’ve taking due to the cancellation of the Record Fair. Because of the Hurricane damage, the silent drive is going loud and proud. Make a Hurricane Recovery pledge now and help WFMU recover from electrical, water and financial damage suffered during the Hurricane. Disaster or no, we have a great new Turntable T-shirt or holiday music compilation, WFMU’s War on Christmas (featuring an exclusive unreleased mix of Big Star’s “Jesus Christ”, plus James Pants, Klaus Nomi and more). WFMU is BACK on the air at 91.1fm and streaming online from our damaged studios in Jersey City! Our 90.1 transmitters is still off the air, but 91.1, our streams, our website, archives and online fundraising are all up and working double. The Storm took out power at our studios and BOTH our 91.1 and 90.1 FM transmitters, and thankfully electricity was recently restored to our Jersey City studio, where large amounts of electrical damage took place.”

The WFMU Record Fair is an annual swap of vintage vinyl that serves as the station’s most reliable fundraiser. A blog post at minced no words about the meaning of the cancellation, calling it a “financial disaster” for the station.

Freeman told the paper that the swamping of the Record Fair will mean a $150,000 loss for the station. Add that to an estimated $100,000 in “fried equipment,” and one of the world’s most fearless stations is facing a quarter-million-dollar disaster.

Freeman says he stayed at the station until 6 p.m. the night of the storm. The next day, the manager, who lives in Hoboken, woke to a drowned world. He twice attempted to reach WFMU headquarters by bicycle and was blocked by 5 feet of water on the Observer Highway, the road that leads from the Mile Square City to Jersey City.

He did not leave the station unmanned. Clay Pigeon, host of the Dusty Show on WFMU, stuck it out even after the power was gone. The DJ spent the night surrounded by rising waters at WFMU and didn’t make it home until the following day. Freeman said that Pigeon, a New Yorker, paid a cabbie $100 to get him through the Lincoln Tunnel.

See The Star-Ledger story here