James Dolan is best known as the head of Madison Square Garden, and the owner of the Knicks and Rangers, but now he's stepping into the political fray.
He’s created a political action committee, the Coalition to Restore New York, and given it $4 million in corporate funds to ask each candidate five questions on how they would revive the city after the pandemic. The PAC will not back a specific candidate.
“Nope, not gonna endorse anyone. What we're trying to do is, as I said, is help New York vote for a mayor that will help restore us,” the normally publicity-shy Dolan told NY1 in a rare interview.
Dolan won’t say who he might vote for, though he will vote. Dolan recently registered as a Democrat in New York City, where he says he now lives. He had been registered as a Republican on Long Island. He supported Donald Trump for president, but also supported Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Dolan has given a total of $12,500 to three Democrats running for mayor this year, all of them seen as moderate: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Wall Street executive Ray McGuire, and Shaun Donovan, who served as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.
“I’m going to vote — yes. And I pay taxes here in New York City, too,” Dolan said with a laugh.
The PAC’s website is getting about 3,000 visitors a day. So far, 6 of 15 candidates have answered the questions.
“And some of them are the leading ones," Dolan said. "Maya Wiley has responded; Eric Adams has his answers up there. As you mentioned, Andrew Yang has his responses up there."
Yang has called for repealing a state law that has allowed the Garden to avoid paying property taxes for 38 years. Dolan said that did not motivate him to create the PAC, and that all teams receive subsidies, not just his Knicks and Rangers. He said if his tax break is eliminated, fans will pay more.
“Take away the tax breaks, what will happen? Well, that will raise the expense level for all the teams. And most likely, that will be reflected in ticket prices," Dolan said. "At a time when we're trying to restore tourism and stop people from moving out, that's not the best message to send, in my opinion. But you know what, make up your own mind."
Like Dolan, who has moved from the Republican Party to the Democrats, Yang has also switched teams — literally. He has said he was so upset with the Knicks’ perpetual losing ways, he’s now a Brooklyn Nets fan. That was before the Knicks embarked on a rare winning season.
Now one of the NBA’s hottest teams, the Knicks are almost a shoo-in for the playoffs. As for Yang jumping off the Knicks’ ship, Dolan said, “I think that politicians who attempt to use the team, and, and they and their records as some sort of platform to get votes are really off the mark.”
Dolan emphasized that all elections are important, but this one is crucial: “We’ve just been through a pandemic, and we're not even through it here, and the city has to recover. And these politicians who we elect are going to be the ones that are either going to pull us through or not pull us through the end so now's the time for New Yorkers to really pay attention to who you're voting for now.”