New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he supports calls to compel the owners of local sports stadiums, including Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium, to pay more taxes to aid the city’s bid to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
De Blasio, a Democrat, was asked at his daily press briefing to respond to a letter last month from nine lawmakers on the New York City Council who called for the Garden, Yankee Stadium, the Barclays Center and Citi Field to pay property taxes. The mayor said he hasn’t seen the letter and was unfamiliar with the legal specifics, but supported the concept of requiring New York’s local teams to increase their contributions.
“Let’s be clear – sports franchises have gained incredible value over the years,” de Blasio said. “They clearly have the resources. I think the history in this city and pretty much all over the country was stadium deals were not good deals for the public, by and large. Some of the more recent ones have been better, but mostly they haven’t been that good. Everything should be reevaluated especially at a point when the city is going to need resources for our recovery.”
Representatives for Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium could not immediately be reached for comment on de Blasio’s remarks.
The letter from the New York City councilmembers included a specific call to end a tax break that has exempted Madison Square Garden from paying taxes since 1982. The lawmakers also want the city to renegotiate their Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements with Yankee Stadium and other local venues to increase investments in their surrounding communities.
De Blasio said he also supports a local call to require the New York Yankees to pay fair market rent for their stadium to establish parity with local businesses. He called on the franchise to step up its efforts to support the Bronx during the pandemic.
“Of course, they should support the neighborhood right around them. And that's a neighborhood, you're right, that has gone through a lot over the years and deserves that support,” de Blasio said in response to a question at the briefing. “The Yankees should be good neighbors, reach out to those businesses, see how they can provide them financial support in this tough time.”
De Blasio has faced criticism in recent days for his handling of the pandemic. A group of more than 160 local business leaders, including executives from Citigroup, Jet Blue and Con Edison, called last week for de Blasio to address “quality of life” issues that arose in New York City in recent months, including public safety and cleanliness.