Foul for Garden
January 7th, 2008

It looks like the City Council and Cablevision are squaring off at center court in what could be a fearsome face off over Madison Square Garden’s tax exemption.

Earlier this morning – and what could presumably still occurring – the City Council’s Finance Committee met to debate a resolution proposed by Councilmember Helen Sears in 2006 that would call on Albany to rescind the Garden’s approximately $11 million annual tax exemption.

Though the measure is just a resolution, thus is toothless and would not carry the force of a bill, Garden executives are apparently charging ahead to block the measure.

The burgeoning debate– which has reportedly thus far included an extensive lobbying effort by the Garden’s parent company, Cablevision, to quash the resolution – has been under the city’s spotlight since early last year, when City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she hoped to rescind the Garden’s tax break. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also expressed support for the measure. With both Quinn and Bloomberg’s blessing, the resolution is pretty much guaranteed to pass.)

But how far it can make it in Albany is another story. Some say Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is unlikely to move the measure upstate – remember Bloomberg’s ill-fated West Side stadium. That was held up, some say, because of an extensive lobbying effort by Cablevision.

Whatever may happen in Albany does not discredit the more vocal calls from legislators to end the tax break here. In December, two council members displayed signs in the Council Chambers stating Fire Isiah!” This morning, Quinn released a strongly worded statement on the tax exemption (which appears below in full.)

The council’s next stated meeting is this Wednesday, and it is not clear yet whether the body could move that quickly on the resolution.

Here is Quinn’s full statement:

“$11 million dollars may not sound like a lot of money to Jim Dolan, but to most New Yorkers it’s a fortune. If he expects the City of New York to extend what is almost a million dollar a month tax break in perpetuity, he’s sadly mistaken. New Yorkers pay the highest taxes in the country, and they need to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

“When Mayor Koch requested the exemption for MSG, he believed it would be for a decade, not a quarter of a century, and certainly not forever. But for more than twenty-five years, New Yorkers have compensated Madison Square Garden’s decision to stay in New York to the tune of nearly $297 million dollars. It’s time for them to start paying their fair share.

“Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and Rangers, should be treated just like all our hometown professional sports teams. The Yankees and Mets are building publicly owned ballparks on publicly owned land, the Garden is a private facility. If and when a new arena is built for the Knicks and Rangers, Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) should be considered as were structured around the agreements to build new homes for the Mets and Yankees.

“Today’s hearing should come as no surprise to the Dolans. My position hasn’t changed since last April when I called for repealing this exemption as part of my Budget Response. In fact, I supported this resolution long before I became Speaker.

“The City faces hard economic decisions in areas like education and healthcare in the coming years. We should not make these decisions even more difficult because the Garden is looking for a free ride.”

By on January 7, 2008, 1:25 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Law,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Foul for Garden”

  1. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Garden’s Tax Break Blocked Says:
    January 30th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    […] several years of staggering and debate, the council approved a resolution calling for the termination of Madison Square Garden’s tax […]

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