the lot radio shut down department of health

The view from The Lot Radio's eponymous Lot.

Francois Vaxelaire

After spending three years in administrative limbo, Nassau Avenue institution The Lot Radio has been shut down by the Department of Health, but promises to come back better than ever. After 60 reports to the department by "an anonymous person," a failed health inspection is leading to a more secure future, its owner says.

"We had some anonymous complaints from someone from the neighborhood who doesn't like our operation and wants us shut down," said Francois Vaxelair, the radio/coffee shop's proprietor. "That's what attracted the Department of Health to our operation, but they were aware of the situation, so they were coming one day or another."

The Lot Radio, which runs out of a reclaimed shipping container on a triangular empty lot in Greenpoint, has run a coffee kiosk to finance its nonprofit internet radio stream highlighting local musicians.

"I started it because New York needed some sort of community, internet radio to be able to welcome all the young talent and young DJs the city has and give them the platform they deserve," Vaxelaire said.


The problem, according to the DOH, is that it's not connected to the city's water system, and can't provide employee bathrooms, though Vaxelaire reports that they have a running agreement to use the ones in the nearby San Damiano Mission Catholic church.

"We've been running and been open legally for three years," Vaxelaire insisted. "I was frustrated because I was waiting for a call from the Department of Health or the Department of Agriculture and Markets to let me know what was the situation." 

For the near future, Vaxelaire is trying to keep things running smoothly, continuing The Lot Radio's broadcasts and keeping their eight workers employed, though depending on how long the shutdown lasts he says he may have to reconsider.

"I felt it was unfair for them to pay the price. For now they're still on payroll, and I'm hoping to keep them on payroll throughout the shutdown, if the time is not too long, he said. "I mean, we can survive for weeks, but if it becomes months in plural, we'll have to rethink it. But I'm confident it's not going to be months. I'm confident."

Despite the shutdown, which has left the radio station without a steady funding source, Vaxelaire is not just confident that everything will be resolved, but happy that he now knows where The Lot Radio stands with the city.

"The shutdown might look a bit dramatic from the outside, but it actually triggered the most constructive dialogue we ever had with the Department of Health," he said. "Now we're actively working to find a good solution."

In the meantime, Vaxelaire is continuing business as usual, including hosting the station's three-year anniversary celebration on Feb. 9 at the Brooklyn Bazaar.

"To be honest, there is no panic," he said. "All in all, it's a shutdown, but for a better rebirth."

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