As the world honors the birthday of world-renowned electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla, who was born on midnight July 9, 1856, Long Islanders are hoping to honor his memory and his achievements here.
His last-standing laboratory, Wardenclyffe, which he intended to use to transmit commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting and power, has been preserved on Tesla Street in East Shoreham but plans to turn it into a learning center and museum remain on hold.
The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a nonprofit group, is hoping to raise $1.2 million to buy the site, but the facility’s fate remains unclear.
So far, the exterior of the original lab, designed by famed architect Standford White and built in 1901, has been spared from the wrecking ball, thanks to the patience of Belgian-based corporation Agfa-Gevaert, which was about to sell the property to a developer a few years ago until public outcry from Tesla supporters drew attention to the proposal and the company acquiesced.
Two months ago, the corporation was notified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that the 16-acre former Superfund site has finally been fully remediated.
The lab will need a few million dollars’ worth of repairs before it can open to the public, say advocates of the Tesla Wardenclyffe Project, which was established in 2010. Tesla had worked there from 1901 to 1917, when he finally ran out of money to pursue his dreams. J.P. Morgan had invested $150,000—more than $3 million in today’s dollars—but supposedly pulled the plug once he learned that Tesla wanted to give the world energy for free.
When it was in full operation, the Tesla Tower, as it was known, stood almost 200 feet high, and could be seen from Connecticut. Today, only the foundation remains.
Independent Long Island-based filmmaker Joseph Sikorski has been raising money for his feature film about the innovator, called “Fragments From Olympus: The vision of Nikola Tesla,” which won best screenplay from the International Long Island Film Festival in 2010 and was a semi-finalist in the International Movie Trailer Festival in 2011.
He shot the trailer at Old Bethpage Village on a shoe-string budget. So far, he says he’s lined up actress Sean Young, veteran character actor Leo Rossi and cinematographer Howard J. Smith to do the full-length picture if the numbers fall into place. He and his co-writer, Michael Calomino, have pledged to spend a million dollars of their $4 million budget to buy Wardenclyffe from Agfa.
If he could speak to Tesla today, Sikorski says he’d say two things: “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.”
He’d thank him for caring “more about scientific progress than his own material wealth” and he’d apologize for the way the world treated him, letting him “die penniless, ignored and alone.”
Tesla, who was born in Croatia, died in a Manhattan hotel on Jan. 7, 1943.
In a statement sent from his film production company, Sikorski said: “On this day, the anniversary of Nikola Tesla’s birth, please take a moment to thank a man you may not have even heard of, for improving your lives in so many ways, including (but by no means limited to) providing you with the AC current needed to power your computer while you’re reading this.”