September 23, 2004
The City Planning Commision held its hearing on the plan to develop the Hudson Yards area today at FIT. Amanda Burden, the Chair of the commission, maintained a remarkably orderly proceeding throughout. At past stadium hearings (although this was not supposed to be a hearing about the stadium, but, of course, as all preceeding meetings, it eventually boils down to the stadium) the room has been filled with hoots and hollers, but that action was reserved this time for the hallway outside the auditorium. No, decorum was kept in the auditorium throughout.
I was in and out of the auditorium throughout the day, talking to various reporters and media outlets, so I missed many of the three-minute-per-speaker statements. I did catch Dick Gottfried’s statement, which was laudable today for its brevity. As mentioned elsewhere on these pages, Mr. Gottfried’s office has made it clear that he would oppose the stadium even if it was free.
My favorite speaker, once again, was Abe Hirschfeld. Abe, the King of Parking Lots, confided to us today that he had built all of the parking lots in the Broadway area, but was not allowed to run them, and that he had built “…the stadium behind 61st Street, but couldn’t sell a seat because Jackie Kennedy lived there and some people don’t like to have their picture taken.” I have not a clue as to what he is talking about, but that is what makes Abe so charming..
Oh yeah. I spoke to Thom Duane and Richard Gottfried today on the MSG tax scam.
The opposition press conference had just ended, or rather, petered out. Holding a press conference at which you merely restate what you have been saying for the past 18 months can be a tedious task for all involved, although this press conference was livened up by some of my more boisterous brothers and sisters from the labor movement, who were intent on chanting “We want jobs, we want jobs…” every time Gottfried would speak, much to his chagrin.
As the camera crews packed their equipment away, I saw my chance to talk to Thom and Dick. Dick was busy spinning yarn with a print reporter, but Thom was standing there, hands free, an inviting target for an honest question.
“Thom. You and I are on opposite sides of this issue. We disagree. But can’t we agree on the Madison Square Garden tax scam? Shouldn’t Cablevision be paying taxes on the Garden?”
Thom strikes me as a good soul. He has a soft, although slightly pedantic way of speaking. He squinted at me as I spoke, then responded.
“I know, I know, but couldn’t you take a stand on this issue? Oppose the stadium, right, but demand that Madison Square Garden pay its fair share of taxes.”
Thom squinted again, his eyes ever more distant. They seemed, in fact, as if they were circling the planet Mars. “There are hundreds of situations like this. We reviewed them at that time, but of course…” At this point, Thom’s eyes were approaching the rings of Saturn. Not wanting to lose our State Senator to deep space, and noting the opportunity to speak to Mr. Gottfried, I thanked Thom for his time and stepped over to the Assemblyman, who was winding down his yarn session.
“Hi Dick. Tom McMorrow. We’re on opposite sides of the stadium issue, obviously, but don’t you think that this is a great chance for you and all of us to demand that Cablevision pay its fair share of taxes?”
I don’t think Gottfried was happy to see me, but clearly, he was not about to shy away from battle, either.
“There are many cases like this, hundreds. Tax credits are given to encourage construction…”
“Yes, I interrupted, “but that tax credit was given to the Garden almost 20 years after its construction. Remember, they tore down Penn Station, one of the most wretched acts in the history of this city, in order to build the Garden back in the ‘60’s. It was only in the 1980’s, under Koch…”
Gottfried cut me off. “We all know about this. It’s not new.”
“Well, I didn’t know about it,” I responded.
“Oh. You didn’t know about it.” He seemed gleeful. “You didn’t know about it,” he repeated. I was now in a game of “gotcha”, and I was it.
Silly me. I thought that I was the constituent, and he was my representative. I thought, when I pulled the lever next to Richard Gottfried’s name in the last election, that I was sending him to office to represent me, that if there were any undeserving tax credits on the books, that he would look into it for me and my brothers and sisters.
Silly, silly me.
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