A Modern Mystery

We've heard of many legendary mysteries of the world: King Solomon's Mines, Valley Of The Kings, the Sphinx, Macchu Pichu, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Pyramids of Giza, Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle. They have amazed people over the centuries, filling them with awe, or stoking dreams of fortune, greatness, or horror.

But now there's a new mystery to pondered, to fill people with awe...or dread. What could it be?

The Empire State Building Circle!

The circle, also called the ESB Circle has a very strange effects on cars, vans, and trucks entering its area of influence.

In the shadow of the Empire State Building lies an “automotive Bermuda Triangle” - a five-block radius where vehicles mysteriously die.

“We get about 10 to 15 cars stuck near there every day,” said Isaac Leviev, manager of Citywide Towing, the AAA’s exclusive roadside assistance provider from 42nd St. to the Battery. “You pull the car four or five blocks to the west or east and the car starts right up.”

Strange, yes? Read on.

The 102-story building, at Fifth Ave. between 33rd and 34th Sts., has been home to broadcast equipment since its opening in 1931, when RCA installed an experimental TV antenna.

Since the 9/11 attacks destroyed the twin towers, the building has regained its status as the leading transmission site for commercial broadcast outfits, with 13 TV and 19 FM stations mounting antennas on its spire.

The Empire State Building Co., which refused to provide the Daily News a list of its antennas, denied it has created any “adverse impact” on automobiles.

“If the claim were indeed true, the streets in the vicinity of the building would be constantly littered with disabled vehicles,” the building’s owner said.

According to many doormen in the area, they often are.

“They park here on the block and when they come back and try to leave, they can’t start their cars,” said Martin Deda, a doorman at 16 Park Ave., which fronts E. 35th St.

“I’ve seen a lot of cars get towed away,” said a doorman at 35 E. 35th St. who gave only his first name, Joseph. “I see it all the time, at least 10 times a week ... I call it the ‘Empire State Building Effect.’”

With the ever increasing number of electronic systems being built into vehicles these days, it's not surprising that there might be greater susceptibility to external electromagnetic interference. What is surprising is that automakers haven't also built in more shielding and filtering to keep these interfering signals out of the vehicle electronic systems. It seems they must relearn a lesson from the 1970's when cars and truck suffered maladies when CB radios became commonplace and electronic ignition and engine management systems were being affected by CB transmissions.

I read somewhere – I don't remember where – the average car in the US has over 40 microcontrollers built into them, running everything from the ignition and fuel injection systems , anti-skid braking systems, audio systems, climate control systems, security systems, and everything in between. It's not surprising then that vehicles might be more sensitive to outside electronic interference.

...some phantom transmission appears to cause the remote keyless entry systems of scores of car owners to go haywire and stop talking to their vehicles.

Abe Quinones was a drug rep in September 2002 when he parked his brand-new BMW 325i on the south side of E. 35th St., just west of Park Ave.

“As I was leaving, I went to click the remote to lock the doors, but it didn’t work. I just thought it was the [key’s] battery,” he said. He locked the car the old-fashioned way, using the button on the door. When he returned, he was locked out.

“I was stuck there for three hours. I had to call for a tow truck,” he said, adding that the driver jimmied open his door. “The minute he stuck the key in the ignition the car started up.”

So beware the Twilight Zone of the Empire State Building Circle. You enter at your own risk....

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