Thursday, August 04, 2011

The inconsistency of the New York Times editorial page: Islanders owner should build new arena on his own, but 2005 request that Ratner "pay his own way" since forgotten

Is the New York Times editorial page consistent when it comes to public subsidies for sports facilities? Of course not.

An editorial in yesterday's New York Times was headlined Voters Nix $400 Million Hockey Tix:
Voters in Nassau County, showing far better sense and grasp of arithmetic than their elected leaders, have rejected a scheme to raise their taxes so their county could borrow $400 million to build a new hockey arena.
The Times, sounding like it's channeled the collected works of Neil deMause, observes:
1. The deal stunk. That’s usually so when governments throw money at sports teams. Mr. Mangano was asking for a 4 percent tax increase, an estimated $14 to $58 more a year per household, in return for gauzy promises of new jobs and tax revenue...

...3. If [Islanders owner] Mr. [Charles] Wang needs a new arena, let him build it. Last we checked, professional sports was still a private (and highly lucrative) business, not a public utility.
What happened to "Mr. Ratner should pay his own way"?

All well and good, but the Times is not exactly consistent. Remember the newspaper's stance in a 3/27/05 editorial headlined A Triple Play for New York Teams:
But the city and state are each supposed to contribute $100 million to build streets and sidewalks and prepare the site for development. That's unnecessary: Mr. Ratner should pay his own way.
(Emphasis added)

That position was forgotten in all subsequent editorials. Did Forest City Ratner, by way of its corporate relationship with the Times, building the Times Tower together, got a chance to argue that the $200 million was deserved?

Quite likely. Add in the additional direct subsidies, massive indirect subsidies, the giveaway of naming rights, and Forest City Ratner managed a good deal.

"Ready to give away the store"

Referring as well to the Jets in Manhattan and the Yankees in the Bronx, the Times in 2005 concluded:
But major professional sports teams just don't need the assistance. Government officials should be negotiating from positions of power, instead of standing ready to give away the store when professional teams bat an eye in New York's direction.
Yes, it's a lot easier when it's a straight up-down vote on a bond issue, as in Nassau. But the Times editorial page never gave Atlantic Yards the analysis it hinted at in that early editorial.

Otherwise, the paper might have opined, in the case of the revised 2009 Vanderbilt Yard deal, that the state had the developer over a barrel and should not have been "ready to give away the store."

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