A Billion Here, A Billion There

New York City heads for a stadium overdose. Guess who will be paying.

Then there's the mayor's new bête noire: Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden, which sits just four blocks from the Jets' proposed dome. When it looked like Hudson Yards might include cash for a new home for the Knicks and Rangers, Cablevision execs were all for it; now that they've been frozen out of the boodle, they've declared the stadium an unwelcome intruder, and demanded that its retractable roof be lopped off in the planning stages, so as not to compete with MSG for indoor concert bookings. (The mayor responded by suggesting he might strip the Garden of its 22-year-old property tax exemption—a turn of events that must have sparked some amusement at the Independent Budget Office, which has been pestering the city for years to repeal this $12 million-a-year gratuity.)

Cablevision's Dolan family has another reason to be steamed at Mayor Mike, of course: his teaming up with Metrotech developer Bruce Ratner on a $650 million Brooklyn arena proposal—entirely funded through city money and state sales-tax rebates to Ratner, to pay off his arena loans—that would bring the New Jersey Nets across the Hudson to do battle with the Knicks for city hoops loyalties. That plan, dubbed "Atlantic Yards"—what would sports projects be called today if Baltimore had just called Camden Yards "Oriole Park"?—would rely on still more office towers, even as the city tries to jump-start both Lower Manhattan and a new development zone in downtown Brooklyn.

Lurking in the background are the Mets and Yankees, ready to dust off their own twin $800 million stadium plans that expired with Rudy Giuliani's term in office. New Jersey sports czar George Zoffinger recently floated the idea that if the Nets and Jets cross the Hudson, he'll retaliate by seeking to lure a baseball team west—a gambit unlikely to entice either team to the swampland, but which could provide a PR boost to George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon in their efforts to pry Bloomberg's fingers loose from city coffers. Zoffinger quickly insisted that he didn't want to get into a bidding war, but that's exactly what it looks like—and as other cities' experience has shown, when sports giants battle, the grass needs to hold onto its wallet.

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