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DEC Contact: Bill Fonda (631) 444-0350
Bill.Fonda@dec.ny.gov

September 15, 2021

ROCKY POINT HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMEMORATE HISTORIC ROLE OF DEC’S ROCKY POINT PINE BARRENS

New Sign Commemorates Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest’s Role in Advancing Intercontinental Radio Transmission

Nearly 100 years after President Warren G. Harding pressed a button opening the world’s largest radio transmitting station on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest property, radio enthusiasts, members of the Rocky Point Historical Society, and State, Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven elected officials gathered today at the site to unveil an interpretive sign marking this historic achievement. 

“I commend the Rocky Point Historical Society and Suffolk County for celebrating the critical and historic role of DEC’s Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest and RCA in advancing radio communications at the start of the last century,” DEC Acting Regional Director Merlange Genece said. “RCA's scientific and conservation legacy is an integral part of the fabric of the Rocky Point community and the Rocky Point Historical Society is working hard to keep the history of this community alive. On behalf of DEC, I am pleased to accept this sign so that future generations of visitors can learn and appreciate this history.” 

The RCA / Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest was home to the world’s largest radio transmitting station until its closure in 1978. Towers at the station were 450 feet and capable of transmitting and receiving radio signals across the ocean. On Nov. 5, 1921, President Warren C. Harding pressed a button in the White House, which officially opened the RCA Radio Central facility at Rocky Point. 

“On behalf of the Rocky Point Historical Society, I wish to thank Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker for supporting our efforts to preserve and protect the diverse history of Rocky Point and to help us educate our community about its rich history. Suffolk County grant funds enabled us to design and purchase this sign, said Rocky Point Historical Society President Suzanne Johnson. “I would also like to thank the historical society’s past president Natalie Aurucci Stiefel, who has spent decades collecting information about Rocky Point and in particular about RCA and has written extensively about this important topic. Today is a tribute to her.” 

“The legacy of RCA will continue to be recognized thanks to the efforts of the volunteers of the Rocky Point Historical Society. I give much credit to Rocky Point Historical Society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel who reached out to my office to inform me of efforts to recognize the radio technology and science contributions of the RCA Radio Central facility at the 5,836-acre NYS DEC property,” said Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker. “The sign, funded by a county historical grant, will provide acknowledgement for the efforts RCA has made towards radio and television innovations, and highlight the importance of partnerships in supporting science and technology.” 

“The Town of Brookhaven’s role in the development of wireless communications dates back over 100 years and we are proud to join in the celebration of that history with a new interpretive sign,” said Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. “It represents a rich part of our history that is not universally recognized, so this sign will bring it to the forefront for everyone to discover.” 

“I am proud to represent an area of Brookhaven Town that is so immersed in the history of worldwide communications,” said Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner. “It’s important that young people understand that the power to connect with people wasn’t always right in the palm of their hand. Thanks to everyone who played a part in securing the sign that will memorialize this historic property for generations to come.”  

History of the State and RCA’s Partnership: 

RCA and the State Conservation Department, which preceded the DEC, enjoyed a long history of environmental stewardship dating back to 1961 when the first Long Island Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative was created. The cooperative area at that time consisted of 800-acres of RCA property south of Whiskey Road that is now part of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, along with 2,700 acres owned by other adjacent landowners. By 1975, only RCA and one other cooperator remained in the arrangement as land was sold. With the cooperative area reduced to 1,820 acres, DEC negotiated an arrangement with RCA to include all land owned by RCA north of Whiskey Road in the cooperative area. This arrangement increased the RCA Cooperative to 5,836 acres. 

RCA developed the property as a receiving and transmitting stations for long wave radios. With the use of these antenna fields peaking in the late 1940s and 1950s, and with the advent of satellite communications in the late 1960s, their purpose steadily declined and the Rocky Point facility ceased operating in 1978. In 1978, RCA donated the majority of the Rocky Point property to DEC, totaling 5,016 acres, as well as the company’s 2,056-acre property in the town of Southampton, now the David A. Sarnoff Preserve. Additional acquisitions increased Sarnoff Preserve’s total acreage to 2,183 acres, and the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest total acreage to 5,135-acres. 

Many radio and television innovations were also developed at the RCA site in Rocky Point. World-famous radio pioneers visited the station, such as Guglielmo Marconi, Edwin H. Armstrong, Lee DeForest, Charles P. Steinmetz and Nikola Tesla. David Sarnoff became the Director of RCA, which was at the forefront of the development of radio science. 

According to the former Chief Engineer in Charge of the Facility Robert Lundquist, on Sept. 28, 1978, a group of RCA and New York State officials, including then-Governor Hugh L. Carey, gathered in the lobby of the main RCA Building #1 to formalize the transfer of both the Rocky Point and the Riverhead (Sarnoff) properties to the State of New York. Governor Carey presented a token payment for the properties in the form of a silver dollar. In 2004, Mr. Lundquist presented that silver dollar to the Rocky Point Historical Society for their archive collection. 

The sign was funded by a grant from Suffolk County to the historical society. 

Additional Information 

RCA Radio Central – Rocky Point Historical Society  - Rocky Point Historical Society - RCA Radio Central 

https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/75900.html - Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest
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