Controversial Knicks, Rangers owner weighs in on mayoral race over MSG tax breaks

New York Elections

NEW YORK — Controversial Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan weighed in on the mayor’s race, as candidates on both sides of the aisle say it is time for Madison Square Garden to pay its fair share of property taxes.

“I think most New Yorkers agree a place like MSG can afford to pay property taxes,” said leading Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.

Yang is among several candidates who want to end a property tax exemption for “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” It saves the Knicks and Rangers ownership group, led by Dolan, around $40 million per year.

Yang wants the money, in part, to pay for his basic income proposal. supporting New Yorkers living in extreme poverty. He downplayed any push back from Dolan, joking that the Knicks are on a winning streak.

“I hope James Dolan is at least feeling good about that,” Yang said.

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But Dolan already appears to be fighting back.  He told Spectrum News/NY1 that losing the tax break could increase ticket prices for fans.

“At a time when we’re trying to restore tourism and get people out and moving, that’s not the best message in my opinion,” Dolan said.

Dolan has also created a $4 million PAC called “The Coalition to Restore New York.”

He said it is not about supporting one candidate or another, but he is asking anyone running the city this year to answer five questions about how they will help the New York recover from the pandemic.

Dolan, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, might now be getting so involved in city politics because ending the Garden’s property tax break has become a bipartisan issue. Leading Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa wants to do property tax reform to pay for more police.

“Since 1982, they’ve had a sweetheart deal that enables them to pay no property taxes,” Sliwa said.

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The state is coming after Madison Square Garden as well. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA have long coveted the more than 5,000 seat Hulu theater at MSG to expand and improve Penn Station. Wednesday, the MTA released rendering of what Penn station might look like if that happened.

The recently passed state budget has more than a billion dollars earmarked for the Penn Station project, with more money possibly coming soon from the federal government.

The state would have to ultimately repeal the tax break, but the Garden’s operating permit with the city expires in 2023 — setting up a negotiation with the next mayor and new city council.

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