Back when Madison Square Garden announced it was putting the New York Liberty up for sale last fall, I wondered where the team would play once offloaded, noting that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is pretty booked up with concerts, and Newark’s Prudential Center was pretty much an attendance disaster when the Liberty played there during MSG renovations a few years back. But even I didn’t count on MSG giving the Liberty the boot as soon as this season — while it still owns the team — and relegating games to a tiny community gym in suburban Westchester County:
For the upcoming season, the team will be downgraded to the Westchester Community Center, a dinky, 5,000 seat arena in White Plains, New York. The New York Liberty often had 10,000 attendees during their 2017 season home games.
The Liberty will actually play two home games at the Garden this year, but both will start at 11 am, presumably so that the arena can be cleared out in time to hold yet another Billy Joel concert or whatever in the evening. The rest will be in White Plains, in a space where I have been once in my lifetime as a New Yorker, for a White Plains Golden Apples USBL game in the 1980s of which I have precisely two memories: seeing Spud Webb pass to Manute Bol, which was extremely similar to watching someone hand things up to a man on a ladder; and the daunting challenge of getting a Metro-North commuter train to White Plains, then walking to the arena, and that was when I still lived in Manhattan, where the trains at least leave from.
Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, who also lives in Manhattan, is nonetheless hopping mad about New York City’s only pro women’s sports team (no, Sky Blue F.C. doesn’t count as in New York City, and roller derby doesn’t count as a pro sport) getting exiled to the ‘burbs. Brewer is mad enough, in fact, that she’s threatening to hit MSG where it hurts, by repealing their eternal tax exemption on the Garden that is now saving them (and costing the city) $42 million a year:
“I and many of my colleagues in the City Council and State Legislature have never been convinced that this abatement constitutes good policy,” Brewer wrote.
“Shameful actions like this one, banishing a popular women’s professional sports team where its fan base cannot reach it, do not help your case.”
That’s a fine enough point, but, uh, Gale, you’re not actually on the city council or in the state legislature. And it’s actually the latter of those that has jurisdiction over the tax break, which was extended in 1982 in exchange for the Knicks and Rangers promising not to move for at least ten years, and which never expired because then-mayor Ed Koch forgot to have someone write in an expiration date.
A more viable threat by city officials, if Brewer wants to go that route, would be responding to MSG evicting the Liberty by in turn evicting MSG: The World’s Most Famous Arena only has the right to sit atop the entombed remnants of Penn Station thanks to a special zoning permit from the city, and that is set to expire in 2023. I’ve been skeptical that the city would give an entire arena and three (now two) pro sports teams the heave-ho, even in order to build a new Penn Station entrance, but maybe angry WNBA fans will be the catalyst? Okay, probably not, but at least it’d be a more realistic thing for Brewer to grandstand on.