Garden's Tax Break Blocked (Update)
January 30th, 2008
The City Council gave Cablevision a much anticipated “take that” at its stated meeting today, launching a potential battle upstate between the entertainment conglomerate and New York City legislators.
After several years of staggering and debate, the council approved a resolution calling for the termination of Madison Square Garden’s tax exemption first approved in the 1980s. Council Speaker Christine Quinn charged at the Garden’s corporate owners, mega-company Cablevision, saying the city had lined its pockets for long enough.
“Madison Square Garden is the only entity of the city of New York that has or has ever had an open ended tax abatement,” said Quinn of the $12 million annual break the Garden gets. “They have been more than fairly compensated for staying in this city.”
The vote — which was done by voice, so an exact tally is not available — was relatively one-sided, though several council members expressed hesitation. Calling for equal treatment, some members, like council members Letitia James and Domenic Recchia, said other large corporations or construction projects that received tax breaks should be held to the same standards, whether it’s a stadium for the Nets in Brooklyn or a new one for the Yankees in the Bronx.
Quinn, and other members argue, however, that this open ended break did have an intended expiration date – ten years by Mayor Ed Koch’s standards, said Quinn. And the breaks for the new Yankees or Mets stadiums are for new construction, not to keep certain teams in the city – which is why the garden was given a free pass originally.
Though the debate is over in the City Hall chamber, all eyes will turn towards Albany now, where some say Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is unlikely to take up the measure. (Recall, Bloomberg’s doomed West Side stadium, which might not have moved because of an extensive, and allegedly successful, lobbying effort Cablevision.)
Update: A public relations representative just forwarded this statement from the Garden: “We have previously communicated with the Mayor and agreed to discuss this issue with him at the appropriate time. The City Council’s decision to single out Madison Square Garden, an engine of economic activity that provides jobs for New Yorkers, when more than a billion dollars in benefits have been given to the other pro sports teams in New York City is obviously based on politics, not sound public policy,” said Barry Watkins, a spokesman for Madison Square Garden.By Courtney Gross on January 30, 2008, 5:55 pm
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