The brick-and-mortar online radio station is the first of its kind in the borough.
The station was developed by 34-year-old Belgian transplant Francois Vaxelaire. It's built into a shipping container inside of a small empty lot on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border in North Brooklyn. DJ sets and talk shows will be programmed by Chris Cerny, who manages the Queens venue Trans Pecos, as well as music journalist Michelle Lhooq and Lloyd Harris, who runs the popular Tiki Disco party. To date they've already hosted DJs like Falty DL, Jacques Renault and Discwoman crew. Upcoming guests include the KUNQ collective as well Brooklyn labels like Godmode and Purple Tape Pedigree.
It opened in "beta" mode this week, Vaxelaire says, and is "already streaming from 11 AM until midnight every day." He sees it as New York City's answer to European streaming radio staples like Rinse FM, NTS or Red Light Radio. "Something that is not business-oriented, a little island of creativity and passion," he says. Unlike the city's other radio stations, The Lot is also meant to be a social spot. They'll be selling coffee and snacks from a to-go window once they iron out permitting issues with the Health Department.
Below you can read a brief interview with Vaxelaire about how it all came together and what's in store.
What inspired you to start a radio station?
Six months ago, when I was the most depressed about my dull freelance work, I passed by that magical little triangular empty lot in Williamsburg that has an insane view of the city and I noticed a 'for lease' poster. I pass by this place everyday on my way to work, but that day the poster was up. Two minutes later it came to me like a flash: I'm going to rent that magical space and I'm going to set up an online radio station to give a platform for all of the incredible talent that I've witnessed in the past five years in New York City. Since that day I've literally been obsessed with making this idea come to life.
It's the most exciting project I've ever worked on. I felt from the beginning that there was something special about it. The location has some sort of magical aura in the neighborhood. Everybody knows that 'old empty lot where some guy lives in his RV.' I was always intrigued by that spot. I wanted to just live there!
Talk us through the process of setting the station up.
First I had to come up with a plan to fund the radio. I wanted it to be 100% independent. Not having to look for sponsorships, fundings, grants or anything. That's when I came up with the idea of the coffee stand. I'd use a reclaimed 20-foot shipping container, divide it in half (half radio studio, half coffee stand) and get things running. The coffee stand will fund the radio! It will allow us to stay independent and have a radio that is only about passion, filled with people who live for music.
That was six months ago… then came real trouble: NYC administration. I had to fight for six months with Department of Buildings to be able to have a container on an empty lot. Six months later, it's still not 100-percent finished. At the same time I'm fighting the Department of Health who make it really hard to get my permit to sell coffee. Since we managed to get that far, plus the fact that the container was already done and on site, we decided to start the radio in a sort of beta phase―try things out for the next few months, get the word out there. Something that is not business-oriented, a little island of creativity and passion.
What are your hopes for the future?
It's been maybe ten days since we started streaming and the reception is great. We're already streaming from 11 AM to midnight every day. It's a work in progress, and we like it that way. Between the Discwoman crew passing by every Sunday, Joakim starting his monthly show tomorrow and Lloyd having his daily (late) morning show we have a ton of people hosting incredible shows and who are expressing how much they are happy such a platform now exists. It's almost like an open source project: I want people to come in and add their piece to the project, by their passion and the diversity of the people who are on board.
The most exciting part about this project, and maybe what makes us different from any other online radio station, is the 'brick-and-mortar' location, the fact that we are also a little coffee stand welcoming passers-by, neighbors, friends and the curious alike. I want this place to create a bridge between the online and the offline world. The lot has no direct neighbor, except the super friendly people at the church and we have an incredible view on the Manhattan skyline. It's a little island of freedom. I really want people to see this as an honest passion.