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New York City Council Takes A Look At MSG Tax Deal

NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — New York's City Council held a hearing on Monday to reconsider Madison Square Garden's $11 million-a-year tax break, but the venue's owners the Dolans didn't show, sending a consultant in their stead.

First enacted in 1982, the exemption has amounted to about $287 million and was to stay in place for as long as the Rangers and the Knicks continued to play at MSG, but with a new arena under construction across the street, discourse about repealing the tax break has moved to the forefront.

"Eleven million dollars may not sound like a lot of money to Jim Dolan, but to most New Yorkers it's a fortune," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, speaking in support of a resolution to call on the state legislature to repeal the break "If he expects New York to extend what is almost a $1 million-a-month tax break in perpetuity, he's sadly mistaken."

Thomas Hazinski, managing director of HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Consulting, a consultant retained by the Dolan family to represent them had a different view. "The value of Madison Square Garden's property tax exemption is substantially less than the level of government support for the other three recent deals in New York," Hazinski said.

The Post reported that Hazinski pointed to the Yankees in particular, who he contends receive more than $600 million a year in different kinds of public support.

The city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) takes a less sanguine view, taking issue especially with the open-ended nature of the deal.

IBO senior economist Theresa Devine told the council that open-ended deal left the city with little latitude to deal with situations like the NHL strike, which deprived the city of 40 games worth of profit but left the exemption in full force.

The resolution still needs to be voted on by the full city council before they can start to garner the support of state law makers. MSG's parent company, Dolan dominated Cablevision has numerous allies in the state legislature, most notably Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who lent critical support to block the West Side Stadium deal. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers