2013-10-02 / Features

Weprin: End Madison Square Garden $17M Tax Exemption

Assemblymember David I. Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) held a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall with the Communications Workers of America and the Working Families Party to support the passing of Assembly Bill A.6597, co-sponsored by state Senator James Sanders (D-Jamaica) as Senate Bill S.4609, which will end the annual $17 million property tax exemption for Madison Square Garden (MSG). Since 1982, MSG has been exempt from paying real property taxes under section 429 of New York state property law, a provision that was designed as a 10-year tax relief plan to ensure all of the sports franchises that use Madison Square Garden’s facilities would continue to operate in New York City. MSG has not paid real property taxes for 31 years and New York state has lost nearly $350 million of tax revenue. MSG is a $4.4 billion corporation which owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks of the NBA, the New York Rangers of the NHL, the New York Liberty of the WNBA, and the Connecticut Whale of the AHL. In addition, the company owns Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Wang Theatre and the Forum in Inglewood, California. MSG also owns television networks including the MSG Network and Fuse.
Weprin stated, “Originally, MSG’s property tax exemption was designed as a 10-year tax relief plan. In reality, Madison Square Garden has not paid real property taxes for 31 years, which has resulted in depriving New Yorkers of nearly $350 million of tax revenue. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and during this difficult economic period, it is time that we bring more resources into our local communities. The additional $17 million in revenue from the unpaid taxes would provide New Yorkers with much needed aid in education, police, small business support, job creation, health care, rebuilding our infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy, affordable housing, tax relief for New York’s working families and other public services.”
Sanders stated, “The MSG property tax exemption is corporate welfare. While the city struggles financially and is closing schools and firehouses, this multi-billion corporation gets a $17 million per year handout. How many schools could we keep open with that money? How many firehouses could we keep open with that money?”
“James Dolan thinks he shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else,” said Chris Shelton, vice president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), District 1. “He breaks labor laws when Cablevision workers try to unionize and then attempts to evade the consequences. At the same time, he continues to defend an unconscionable, one-of-a-kind tax break that costs hardworking New Yorkers $16 million every year.”
The proposed legislation is receiving strong support from the state senate, Assembly and City Council and recently signed on four new cosponsors; Assemblymembers Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers), J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) and Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan).
“For too long, Madison Square Garden has profited at the expense of New York City residents,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The state must establish a sunset provision for the garden’s tax break to ensure that they pay taxes just like the city’s others businesses and help contribute funds to improve our schools and keep our city safe. As I have for more than seven years, I stand with many of my council colleagues and other New Yorkers to call on the state to end this indefinite tax break and establish a sunset provision that ensures the money goes back to those that need it most in our city.”
“No one dreamed in 1982 that tax breaks to Madison Square Garden and the Dolan family to keep the teams in the city would still be doled out 31 years later,” said Rosenthal. “The partnership among New York City, the Dolan family and MSG has been a mutually beneficial one: the city and local businesses see increased visitors and the Dolan family and MSG have earned more than $1.375 billion since 2007 from NY Knicks and NY Rangers franchises.
“The tax breaks, which were originally granted as an incentive to keep both teams in New York City, deprive the city of critically needed revenues that could be used to fund education and health care at a time when municipal budgets are already stretched incredibly thin. In addition, the logic just doesn’t work: New York City is the largest media market in the world for professional sports; any move would hurt the Dolans and MSG as much, if not more, than it would hurt the city and fans. It’s past time that we put an end to an outdated, unnecessary and expensive tax break to billionaires that comes at the expense of average working-class New Yorkers and their families. I am a proud cosponsor of A.6597, which would put an end to the tax break once and for all.”
Assemblymember Walter T. Mosley (D-Fort Greene) stated, “It’s time for the super wealthy to begin paying their fair share, and the owners of Madison Square Garden are no exception. After over 30 years without paying real property taxes, we cannot continue to hold Madison Square Garden, or any multi-billion dollar corporation, to a different standard from regular, everyday New Yorkers. I am proud to stand with Assemblyman Weprin, Senator Sanders, and CWA in ensuring fair and equal economic opportunity in the City of New York.”
“At a time when New York City is in dire need of financial resources to fund essential social service programs like hospitals, better schools, childcare programs, keeping libraries open and an affordable and efficient mass transit system, it is completely unacceptable that the Madison Square Garden tax giveaway continues to exist,” said Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa (D-Upper Manhattan). “Enacted decades ago, this tax giveaway has cost the City of New York upwards of $300 million that could have gone to fund these, and other essential programs that would help millions of New Yorkers. It is time to end this egregious form of corporate welfare and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of a bill in the New York state Assembly that will eliminate this property tax exemption once and for all.”
Assemblymember Thomas J. Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt.Pleasant) stated, “At a time when we are slashing badly needed services for school kids, poor kids and kids with disabilities, we can’t afford to continue to dole out corporate welfare to rich businesses who already fail to contribute their fair share.”
Assemblymember Annette Robinson (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant) stated, “I want to lend my voice in strong support of the passage of Assembly Bill A.6597 and Senate Bill S.4609 co-sponsored by Assemblyman David Weprin and state Senator James Sanders Jr. respectively. This legislation is important to the city and the state because it would end the annual $17 million property tax exemption received by Madison Square Garden. Madison Square Garden is a primary sports and entertainment venue for the City of New York and beyond. It has provided major events that have touched millions over the years. However, because it has been so profitable, it should no longer be exempt from paying its share of real property taxes. I will continue to fight with my Assembly and state senate colleagues to ensure passage of this bill.”
Assemblymember Luis R. Sepulveda stated, “Madison Square Garden has benefited tremendously from the tax exemption clause over the years. I believe it is now time for them to begin paying their fair share. As an entity, they have prospered from the many of the services New York City has to offer. It is now time for them to give back accordingly.”
Councilmember Margaret Chin (D-Lower Manhattan) stated, “At a time when vital social services are at risk, we must work to ensure that our city’s tax policies support the people and programs that need it the most. Madison Square Garden’s tax break has cost our city $300 million in much-needed revenue long after it fulfilled its original purpose. Now, after 31 years, it’s time we close this loophole and put these taxpayer dollars toward the services and institutions that serve New Yorkers.”
Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Inwood) stated, “The Madison Square Garden tax break has lasted too long and is keeping much needed funds from improving our classrooms and social services, services that...find their way to the chopping block each year, only to be rescued in the 11th hour. It is time Madison Square Garden paid its fair share to the people of the city that have supported the Knicks and Rangers well before this tax break started and will continue to if it is ended.”
“Handouts for Madison Square Garden do not make sense for our city when millions of New Yorkers continue to struggle. We must prioritize policies that benefit the working families of our city,” stated Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Williamsburg-Greenpoint).
In addition to those quoted above, the following elected officials also attended the press conference: state Senator Eric Adams (D-Crown Heights), Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D-Lower East Side), Assemblymember Alan N. Maisel (D- Canarsie), Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Councilmember Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Kensington), Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams (D-Flatbush) and Councilmember Charles Barron (D- Brownsville).

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