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Hams Upset, as New Hotel Owner Wants Repeater Antennas Removed from Roof

01/18/2017

A controversy has erupted on New York’s Long Island, where the owner of the Islandia Marriott — soon to become a casino — wants two Amateur Radio repeaters and antennas removed from the roof of the hotel that’s been their home for nearly 30 years. Town of Babylon ARES Emergency Coordinator and RACES Radio Officer John Melfi, W2HCB, said removing the repeaters would severely hamper the ability of Long Island radio amateurs to support communication in the event of a disaster or emergency. The repeaters, which can take advantage of emergency power at the building, serve the towns of Islip, Babylon, Brookhaven, and Smithtown as well as the American Red Cross.

“People don’t understand what these [repeaters] mean to the community,” Melfi told ARRL. An ARRL Hudson Division Assistant Director, Melfi is also the president of the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club (GSBARC), and club members pressed the two repeaters into service a year ago after a major snowstorm shut down Greater New York City. The club said removing them will be a “devastating blow” to Amateur Radio emergency communications. The WR2UHF repeater is part of the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP), Melfi said, while WD2NY is a D-STAR machine. Owned by Preston Waterman, W2PW, both are affiliated with GSBARC. Melfi said that Waterman had an agreement in place with Marriott to use the site.

The hotel’s new owner, Delaware North, has expressed concerns about safety and security at the casino and said it wants the equipment off the hotel roof sooner rather than later. It’s also offered to help with the relocation.

Melfi said it would be “almost impossible” to find another, comparable location, and that, in any event, relocating the repeaters would prove costly and difficult. The equipment is expected to be moved in February, but the club has begun an online petition drive that has already collected some 350 signatures.

Melfi told ARRL that he’s hoping that the GSBARC and Delaware North will be able to reach a formal memorandum of understanding that spells out access guidelines, so the repeaters and antenna can remain in place atop the soon-to-be casino. He said local hams would even be willing to obtain criminal background checks, if that would help to salve Delaware North’s concerns.

In a statement, Delaware North told Long Island News 12, “We are not aware of any agreement that the previous hotel owner had in place to allow the antenna to be housed on the property and we will no longer permit the use of the equipment or access to the roof. The area needs to be secure due to safety and security concerns, so we have taken steps to limit access. We asked the leader of the Amateur Radio group who approached us to find another location for the antenna, and we offered our assistance in moving the equipment.”



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