making waves

Radio Diaz: Bronx Pol Hired Alleged Pirate Broadcaster

Councilmember Rubén Díaz Sr. (D-The Bronx) attends a hearing at City Hall, Jan. 30, 2019.
Councilmember Rubén Díaz Sr. (D-The Bronx) attends a hearing at City Hall, Jan. 30, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

City Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr. may have a pirate problem as he sets sail for Congress.

Diaz Sr. (D-The Bronx) hired an accused renegade radio broadcaster to do “publicity,” according to his congressional campaign committee’s most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

And that was just weeks before his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., met with FCC member Mike O’Rielly to discuss “ways to eliminate” pirate radio in the borough.

Dionisio Nova, who was paid $300 by the senior Diaz in May, according to the federal filings, was cited by the FCC the following month for operating an unlicensed Bronx radio station. Nova operated at 89.7 FM on the radio dial, conflicting with Columbia University station WKCR, according to the FCC.

The FCC says its agents investigated and found a broadcast studio operating out of an apartment on Cromwell Avenue, according to its complaint against Nova, who ran web and Facebook pages calling 89.7 “Quisqueya FM.”

Diaz Sr., a 76-year-old minister who is among the Democrats seeking to replace outgoing Rep. José Serrano in Congress, did not respond to multiple requests from THE CITY for comment.

Neither did Nova, when contacted by phone at the number listed on the station’s Facebook page. As of Monday, quisqueyafm.net was not broadcasting online.

Raiding the Airwaves

Pirate, or unlicensed radio operators, air broadcasts that interfere with those of licensed outfits — an act that violates federal law.

Most who listen to the unlicensed stations don’t know they are operating illegally, FCC officials told Diaz Jr., according to a source with knowledge of the Bronx borough president’s meeting with O’Rielly this summer.

The controversy-courting Council member also gave campaign funds to Nova in the past: When the former state senator first ran for City Council in 2017, he paid Nova $200 for a “van ad,” city campaign finance records indicate.

So did Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. (D-The Bronx), city campaign finance records show. Salamanca said the payment was for a recording Nova made in his home studio containing a message encouraging Bronx residents to vote in that year’s Council elections.

The recordings were played from a van that drove around the district, Salamanca told THE CITY. He said it wasn’t his voice on the recording.

Salamanca added that does not know Nova or anything about the disk jockey’s FCC issues.

“I know nothing about pirate radio stations,” said Salamanca, who represents South Bronx neighborhoods, including Hunts Point and Longwood.

‘A Hot Market for Pirates’

The FCC recently ramped up its enforcement actions against pirate radio stations, whose broadcasts not only violate the law, but can be havens for scam artists peddling dubious products or services, the agency’s press office said. Pirate broadcasts also can affect emergency alerts.

The New York City area is “consistently a hot market for pirates,” usually topping the list of cities with pirate radio stations in the country, an FCC spokesperson said.

The Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has undertaken hundreds of pirate investigations and issued hundreds of notices to unlicensed operators since 2017.

Quisqueya FM’s Facebook page suggests the station has fans in The Bronx, many of them with roots in the Domincan Republic.

“Definitely something very necessary for our community,” one listener wrote in Spanish.

Another commenter, though, wrote: “Can’t listen to good music since your signal bleeds into other fm channels. Maybe invest in real radio equipment instead of stuff found in a garbage dump.”

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