Here’s a something you might not know about James Dolan:
His prized property, Madison Square Garden, has been fully tax-exempt from the state for the entirety of his ownership. It has reached about $50 million annually that Dolan is keeping from the New York City treasury, simply because he inherited a loophole approved by Mayor Ed Koch over 35 years ago. Koch put in place to keep the Garden’s owners from acting on a threat to move the Rangers and Knicks out of Manhattan. (A bill to repeal the exemption was defeated in 2016.)
If nothing else, James Dolan is good at inheriting.
The veneered Kazoo Man raked in $1.56 billion in revenue last year from the MSG Company, owns the most valuable NBA franchise at a reported $4 billion – which is a valuation based almost exclusively on its location – and has never spent a dime in taxes on MSG.
The regular schlubs paying property taxes are just picking up Dolan’s slack. But based on the conditions of New York’s schools and subway systems, it’s not nearly enough. The fact that Dolan’s tax-free venue sits atop Penn Station is preventing a proper renovation of the crumbling hellhole transit hub. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo once said about Penn Station, “It looks like the seven levels of hell.” The punchline about going upstairs to watch the Knicks (13-54) writes itself.
New York’s reward for allowing Dolan to operate at no cost is a joke of a basketball franchise, a losing parade that continues with this season of record-breaking ineptitude. Dolan claims the double whammy of poor management, owning both the worst record in the NBA over the last 18 years while simultaneously paying the highest luxury tax. In other words, he’s using that tax-avoidance money to fund idiotic basketball decisions made by himself, Isiah Thomas, Steve Mills, Phil Jackson, etc.
At last count, Dolan is currently issuing unemployment checks to Joakim Noah, Ron Baker, Enes Kanter, Phil Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Wes Matthews. Countless others have been waived or fired with time left on their contracts. But again, the regular schlubs are picking up the slack by paying the highest ticket prices in the Eastern Conference.
Then Dolan has the nerve to sic security on a fan who suggested he “sell the team.” It was the work of a thin-skinned bully who, after all these years and failures, still believes he’s above criticism.
NY State Senator Brad Hoylman nailed the hypocrisy on Twitter.
“Madison Square Garden gets over $40M/year in property tax breaks,” Hoylman wrote. “If James Dolan wants to treat it as his private stadium and banfans for merely suggesting he sell the team, then perhaps Albany should take his lead – and redirect those public dollars.”
The irony is that Dolan himself put out the impression that he’s open to unloading the Knicks, even revealing to ESPN that bidders sent out feelers in the $5 billion range. That interview, published in December and titled, “James Dolan, Unplugged,” now stands as a great work of fiction.
In it, Dolan calls himself “more of a street fighter” compared to his wildly successful, self-made father, Charles.
On Sunday, James Dolan was caught on film threatening to ban a fan and then walking away to let security guards handle the dirty work. It was more befitting of a sensitive tyrant than a “streetfighter.” Two years ago — after Dolan appeared to signal for security to eject Charles Oakley — the “streetfighter” barely turned around to watch the chaos unfold.
Also in the ESPN interview, his brother, Patrick, called Dolan, “a major defender of the First Amendment.” Within the last year, James Dolan has barred MSG employees and players from speaking on WFAN and excluded the Daily News from press events. The reason? The owner of the worst NBA team since 2001 didn’t like being criticized.
It’s as if Dolan takes his cues from the President of the United States, both in his media policies and tax avoidance. Perhaps not coincidentally, Dolan’s a big Donald Trump supporter and donor.
Unlike Trump, though, Dolan’s term limit with the Knicks is indefinite. Only he can end the misery.