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The Lot Radio in Greenpoint broadcasts out of a shipping container

On a gloomy Thursday evening, a cluster of 20-somethings gather at 17 Nassau Ave. in Brooklyn, lighting up American Spirits and cracking open cans of Miller Lite in an almost desolate (save for the pink flamingos in a far corner and a few wooden benches) patch of land straddling Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

It would be an odd place to meet for the evening, if not for the large black shipping container where people start to congregate.

They're all here to see DJ Brodinski, of international fame to a certain set, in from France.

The Lot Radio, an independent radio station with a name inspired by its current location, a formerly empty lot, opened in late February and has been turning out tunes ever since.

Francois Vaxelaire, a Belgian multimedia producer, started the
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Francois Vaxelaire, a Belgian multimedia producer, started the project last June after finding this triangular plot of land was available for lease. "All of a sudden I thought that maybe doing an online Internet radio was smart," he said. Vaxelaire had been listening to online radio from London and Amsterdam, and couldn't find an equivalent in New York. "I thought there was room for it, so I asked a little bit around and talked to my DJ friends, et cetera, and they thought it was a good idea, so I started to work on it," he said. "Music is my passion, since always."

After realizing it was too expensive to build anything and that the space for The Lot Radio might be temporary, Vaxelaire decided to buy and design a shipping container to house his radio project. He got the proper permits approved and shipped the container from Long Island to the lot in January.

The main project was the radio station, but
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The main project was the radio station, but funding was an issue.

"We wanted a radio station that was totally independent -- no ads, no sponsorship, nothing," Vaxelaire said. "The only way to achieve it was to find a way to fund it." To do so, he decided to cut the container "exactly in half." One half houses the radio and music side, and the other is a kiosk selling coffee and pastries from local vendors including Luft Coffee, Ovenly and Dough, with more collaborations in the making.

While creating The Lot Radio, Vaxelaire teamed up
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

While creating The Lot Radio, Vaxelaire teamed up with Chris Cherry, Michelle Lhooq who works as a music editor at Vice and Lloyd Harris, whose DJ name is Lloydski, to help develop the program.

"We want the program to be as diverse as New York, we want the best of everything -- the best of rock, psychedelic rock, the best of house, the best of hip-hop, an organized mishmosh and a little bit of everything," said Harris.

The project also appeals to Harris for its multifaceted approach to streaming music. "Radio for so long has been this invisible wall; they're at the station and you're in your house and you can't touch or connect or talk or see, and I feel like we have knocked down that wall: You can come here and hang out and meet the DJs, see them online and talk to them -- we're touching three, four, five senses -- I think that's really cool," Harris said. He aims to create a program that blends established artists with up-and-coming musicians.

Despite the minimal square footage, Brodinski was still
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Despite the minimal square footage, Brodinski was still able to find room to dance and rile up the small crowd of people gathered in the DJ booth. Through the window, spectators could watch him feel the music, as they listened live or tuned in on headphones connected to smartphones for a louder sound.

Lhooq, observing the evening show, said she was inspired by Radar radio, a pirate Internet radio station in London. "When I walked in for the first time, I saw all these people hanging out and everyone was just chilling and talking," she recalled. "I feel like the type of environment where people have a physical space where people can communicate and share ideas in a nonclub setting is important. Here, it is about the music." Lhooq believes The Lot Radio has as much potential, if not more, than Radar, thanks to the community support and energy surrounding the project. "You need these physical spaces in order for culture to happen," she said.

In the weeks since its launch, The Lot Radio has been functioning on "a crazy accelerated timeline," Lhooq said. She attributes this to the fact that "this has been needed for so long." Along with the rest of the team, she believes this project fills a void that has existed in New York for far too long.

Many want to know how to be more involved. DJs and artists can reach out to show@thelotradio.com to inquire about upcoming radio spots, and as the project grows, they may be hiring on both the music and coffee sides of the crate.

To listen to and view The Lot Radio, visit thelotradio.com or head out to 17 Nassau Ave., where you can relax in the company of a few yard flamingos and a slew of new musically minded friends.

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