Madison Square Garden is known for courting big names. Now, a political action committee tied to the famed arena is lavishing gifts on New York City Council members.
The Madison Square Garden Political Action Committee gave $1,000 — the maximum allowed — to sitting members including Keith Powers of Manhattan and Justin Brannan and Alicka Ampry-Samuel of Brooklyn, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The donations come as the Garden has just two years left on a permit granted by the City Council that allows the arena to operate at its West Side location. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised the idea of acquiring the theater portion of the Garden for his Penn Station spruce-up, but many advocates want to remove the entire arena to allow for a complete renovation of the transit hub under it.
In 2013, James Dolan, the chief executive of MSG’s owner, asked the Council to make the permit permanent. Instead, the chamber limited the permit to 10 years, clearing the way for a relocation of the Garden. But no apparent progress has been made toward that.
As the permit’s expiration nears, the City Council will again play a huge role in deciding whether the arena stays — and for how long. The expiration provides leverage for city and state officials to negotiate terms with Dolan, who would expect to be provided a new arena site if forced to move.
Rich Constable, MSG’s executive vice president of government affairs, told the Journal the company regularly makes political donations and was focusing its attention on a new PAC aimed at furthering the city’s recovery.
“Our current political efforts are focused on The Coalition to Restore New York, which asks each candidate five questions facing New York City due to the pandemic — how they plan to address the exodus of city residents; the budget deficit; job loss; safety and tourism,” Constable said.
Contacted for comment about the donations, Powers acknowledged the Council would “deal with big questions about the future of the city, including Midtown,” but said that at the end of the day, “the best plans will be won on the merits and what is best for New York City, nothing else.”
Dolan has personally made maximum contributions, totaling $12,200, to three candidates for mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Ray McGuire and Shaun Donovan.
[WSJ] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan