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TEL: (718) 274-4500 TECHNOLOGY


August 24, 2020

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

The Honorable Bill de Blasio

Mayor of New York City
New York City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio,

As New York City faces perhaps its worst financial situation in almost 50 years, we write
deeply concerned about this situation but wholly dedicated to getting us through it. Now is a time
for every City stakeholder to come together for real, equitable economic solutions — much in the
same way our partnerships have helped beat back the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the Great
Depression, Fiscal Crisis, and 9/11 called on everyone to pitch and save New York City, it’s time
every Big Apple institution do its fair share to guarantee no one is left behind in this recovery.
Which is why we suggest New York City’s sports teams and arenas — perennially atop the
most valuable in their respective leagues — finally pay some form of property taxes. This would
add sorely needed revenue for schools, transportation, and healthcare as hard economic times
threaten the integrity of these social pillars. For far too long, this City has given a free pass to our
beloved teams when it comes to property taxes, out of fear they’ll somehow pack up their bricks
and beams and head across the Hudson River. Government has blown more chances to save our
financially strapped school system than Edwin Diaz has blown three-run Mets leads. In short,
this is as fixed as a Globetrotters game.
To be clear, we don’t hate our teams. Many of us are devoted fans, who look forward to the
day when either the Yankees, the Mets, the Liberty, or, dare we say, the Knicks, will ride down
the Canyon of Heroes. Our teams are a point of civic pride, with a tradition of larger-than-life
figures who made history in their respective games. Policy or political differences don’t stop us
from recounting that epic 1998 Yankees season or the Stéphane Matteau goal that sent the
Rangers to that magical 1994 Stanley Cup victory. Mike Piazza’s home run after 9/11 represents
our resiliency. Fans draw on this history in hopes of future championships, which in turn validate
New York City as the greatest metropolis on Earth.
But our undying loyalty to these teams shouldn’t preclude us from holding these billion-
dollar institutions accountable. The fact that we occupy New York City office space doesn’t stop
us from holding real estate developers accountable. Sweetheart deals with teams in the last 40
years represents the darkest chapter in our tale of two cities. On one side, thousands of New
Yorkers use what little spending money they have to sit in a $52 seat, eat a $6.75 hotdog and buy
a $34.99 t-shirt from the team store. 123 People will sit in traffic waiting for a $25 parking spot or
cram into a Long Island Railroad car just to get to a stadium, which usually sits on City land, to
forget about life for a few hours.4 New Yorkers have opened their hearts and wallets to these
You can love a team, but it might not always love you back. In fact, our relationship is as
lopsided as the Yankees’ 1163-787 lifetime record against the Minnesota Twins. 5 Franchises,
like any major corporation, rely on reliable mass transit lines, low crime rates and clean streets to
lure talent as well as make visiting the game pleasant. Yet they have hardly helped foot the bill
for those perks. For all of the investments we have made, we have seen a handful of
championships from our beloved teams in the last 20 years. Many fans have rightfully stood up
to what’s clearly a raw deal, which we will briefly recap:

● There is the all-too lucrative Madison Square Garden, whose owners haven’t paid any
kind of property taxes since 1982 (the building has seen one championship in its favor
over that time). Initially this was supposed to be a 10-year arrangement in which the City
has been hoodwinked, to the point in which the late Mayor Ed Koch lamented ever
making the pact.6 Now, by 2030, the Mecca of Basketball is forecast to have skipped out
on $1 billion to the City.7
● Consider next the Mets, Yankees, and Nets, whose financial arrangement with the City to
build their respective stadiums was highly scrutinized by the Internal Revenue Service. 8
Built initially under the guise of an Olympic bid, these stadiums were financed with tax-
exempt bonds issued by the Industrial Development Agency. While it’s technically true
they received minimal subsidies in hard cash, the Brookings Institute estimates the
Yankees and Mets skipped out on paying the federal government $706 million in taxes on
those bonds.9 That’s compounded by the fact that both teams, plus the Nets, are obliged

to give the City payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) only for the amount of their debt
service.10 That betrays the intention of PILOTs, however flawed they may be, which is to
pay an amount commensurate with the assessed property value to invest in the
surrounding area. There is so much money left on the proverbial table that the legs are
● Last, take at the areas surrounding many of our stadiums and compare it to the
investments promised when they broke ground. For all of the problems with PILOTs,
collecting them solely to pay down debt means none of that money goes into the
surrounding community. Flushing and Corona, which flank Citi Field, have desperately
needed large-scale infrastructure investments for years. The Barclays Center was
supposed to be a boon for Downtown Brooklyn, but it merely a high-priced trojan horse
for gentrification around the Atlantic Yards that many consider a disaster. We have
declared victory for a new park or some visits to a surrounding school, when a rush of
thousands of fans on a daily basis wears down our roads.

Teams will counter that they provide incomparable economic booms to the surrounding area
in terms of jobs and foot traffic. Research over the last few decades finds that argument is
categorically false not just in New York City, but across the nation. Rarely does a city see the
economic returns for the subsidies or tax breaks it provides. Ask almost any city that’s ever
hosted the Olympics.11 When we’ve sought money from some franchises, their owners have
thrown a fit — threatening to follow the Giants and Jets to New Jersey. 12 History has proven this
is a bluff. The Nets and Islanders relocated to Brooklyn in hopes the borough would broaden
their withering fanbases. A 2016 Rudin Center study found it’d cost $5 billion just to move
Madison Square Garden to a different location within its own neighborhood. 13 Billionaire Steve
Cohen is reportedly ready to enter an all-out bidding war to buy the Mets, not because of their
4,448–4,808 franchise record but because of his childhood memories of them playing in Queens.
New York City franchises are inherently valued higher because they play within the five
boroughs. Any attempt to move them outside of the subway’s reach would no doubt decrease
their value — a bad business move even by novice standards.
When we can barely scrounge together a mere $9 million to fully save the New York City
Community Schools program or afford the $106 million slashed from the Sanitation Department,
we can’t fall for this bluff anymore.1415 This is an opportunity to prove these teams truly care
about the schools they send players to visit or are invested in the mass transit they recommend
people take to the game. We make the following balanced requests of the City and State once
fans are once again able to flood our world-famous arenas:

1. Repeal the 1982 tax break for Madison Square Garden. For almost a decade, Albany
lawmakers have tried with no avail to peel back this exemption; the IBO estimates that
saved $41.5 million in FY2019 for the home of the $3.3 billion Knicks and the $1.5
billion Rangers.16
2. Increase the PILOT payments on Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and the Barclays Center.
The communities around these stadiums need these investments, and we should not allow
this inequitable financial arrangement to continue as is simply because it’s grandfathered
by the IRS.
3. Set a policy in which new stadiums do not get tax breaks and properly compensate the
City for any public land it occupies. New York should set the tone for responsible
development as we build back stronger. This should be the first step in a larger re-
evaluation of property and other taxes as well as the breaks we provide to developers and
large companies.

We love our teams, but we love our constituents more. When the economy goes bust, it’s our
duty to provide services the private sector cannot. It shouldn’t be the other way around. Many of
us never got to play for the teams we grew up rooting for, but this is an opportunity for us to play
with them to make our whole community better.


Council Member Costa Constantinides Council Member Ben Kallos

District 22 District 5

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer Council Member Antonio Reynoso

District 26 District 34

Council Member Helen Rosenthal. Council Member Brad Lander
District 6 District 39

Council Member Inez Barron

District 42

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez

District 10

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