Coliseum Bidders Spend Millions On Lobbying, Receive Breaks

Kevin Schultz

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is expected to make a decision as to whom shall win the rights to renovating the Nassau Coliseum sometime this month. The list has been narrowed down to Madison Square Garden and Forest City’s bid, with Ed Blumenfeld joining up with the latter.

Islanders Brooklyn HockeyLately, both competitors have been in the news for the breaks they receive. A couple of weeks back, Madison Square Garden’s operating permit was given only a 10-year extension, which we mention because MSG gets a cool $15 million tax break — estimated to be $350 million total since 1982 — to continue doing exactly what it’s doing. And what it’s doing is “operating a successful business in midtown Manhattan.”

In yesterday’s news headlines is Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Forest City Ratner, which has one-upped MSG with taking a supposed $2.6 billion — that’s billion with a B — in government subsidies over the last decade. The Post reports that part of that was gained due alleged kickbacks of campaign contributions, which the company has spent $23 million on in the last decade, $5 million in New York City alone, according to the report.

Newsday, sibling company of MSG as both are owned by Cablevision, helpfully highlights that Forest City is a Coliseum bidder in case you forgot and also notes that Forest City received “low-income housing tax credits for residential construction in Oakland.” It’s hard to see how ‘incentives for building low-income housing’ is as scandalous as political kickbacks and not more of a ‘thing municipalities do to bring good things to poorer areas’.

But this is business in America today. If you were even vaguely shocked that any of these things (allegedly) happened, you must be completely oblivious to the fact that the American political environment that is heavily funded by corporate campaign donations and lobbyists. And it’s all part of the game.

Forest City’s spokesman told The Post that the company is “being criticized for being transparent, above board and adhering to the rules. We take pride in the work we do in partnership with local governments to revitalize communities, create jobs and generate economic activity for municipalities, regions and states, including significant tax revenues.”

To provide balanced coverage, here is a side-by-side of the two companies’ campaign contributions.

Per Newsday:

Forest City Enterprises, the parent company for one of the final bidders for the Nassau Coliseum renovation, spent $23 million on political contributions and lobbying over the past decade in districts where it was developing real estate projects, according to a Washington, D.C.-based government accountability group.

According to New York State Board of Elections records¹, Cablevision has donated approximately $4.1 million to New York political campaigns and committees during the past decade. According to New Jersey State records, Cablevision has given an additional $340,854.18 to campaigns and committees across the Hudson over the same time period. And according to OpenSecrets.org, Cablevision Systems Political Action Committee has spent in excess of $250,000 on Washington politicians each year during the past decade.

So, either way, Nassau will choose a company that gets subsidies and contributes money to political campaigns. But there will at least be a much needed renovation of the Coliseum and the promise of a revitalized hub. You can’t have one without the other in today’s world.

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¹ – It doesn’t appear to be possible to hyperlink the records directly. Go to this page, use the entity name Cablevision, select the drop down for ‘appears anywhere in the name’ a use a date range January 1, 2004 to the present and a contribution range from 0 to 10,000,000. This returns all Cablevision donations, which total $4,320,874.09. Of that number, $21,896.63 is from Mid-Hudson Cablevision, which appears to be a separate entity.