Belgian Francois Vaxelaire is the man behind The Lot Radio, an independent online radio station streaming live, every day, from a reclaimed shipping container on an empty lot in Williamsburg. Eternally at war with the city – about if he can add seats, or a coffee shop, or have a container in a vacant lot at all – Vaxelaire is a throwback to an almost completely vanished NYC: people who did creative things that bring joy to people, even if there’s not a super clear way to make money off of it. Most of us want to be here precisely to be someone like him, or just be around people like him.
How and why did you become involved in your line of work? What would you even call what you do?
Music has always been my first passion but I’ve never worked professionally in that field. I was a freelance multimedia producer when I discovered that that little “famous” abandoned plot of land on Nassau Ave & Bankers was for lease. Then a sparkle lit up in my mind: I’m getting that lease and I will start an independent online radio station right there! I just need to figure out a way for the radio to be self-funded and economically sustainable.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
The Lot Radio is a little world by itself. A world with 2 poles: The radio, that streams live from 8am to midnight everyday, and the kiosk that funds the radio by selling coffee, pastries, beer and wine from 8am to midnight everyday. First, you have to make sure the kiosk runs smoothly. Otherwise, the whole project fails. Then, on the radio side, it goes from making sure that the timetable is tight and that everyone shows up for their show, inviting people we love to pass by and host a show, archiving, spreading the word, organizing events, etc.. For all this, we are a team of 4 baristas and 4 volunteers.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
That whatever the age, the background, the geographic location, people love and understand our project.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
It is really down to earth: my proudest achievement is getting through more than 9 months of struggle with all NYC departments to get my project recognized and approved. And also getting our beer and wine license after a year and a half working on it. The Lot Radio now is really just the beautiful tip of the iceberg.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
We are a constant work in progress, and we always want it to be that way. We are constantly trying to reach out to people who are not yet involved in the radio.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Every single DJ/musician/person who took time to come in our studio to share their passion for music, as well as our team. Without that, there would not be any Lot Radio.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.