Big Urban-Planning Issues: How Do We Get LeBron?It’s been a bad week for massive urban-planning projects. First came news that Madison Square Garden would be renovating instead of moving into the Moynihan Station megadevelopment across Eighth Avenue.
It Happened This Week: Striking BackHillary Clinton hit Barack Obama on Reverend Jeremiah Wright even as critics slammed her for fibbing about Bosnian sniper fire, Sean Combs smacked down rumors that he was involved with Tupac’s shooting, and other events of the week that was.
Moynihan Station: All That Doubtful Press Actually a Good SignNegotiation via blind items drives epochal real-estate projects, as well as ballplayers’ contract haggling, and we’ve uncovered reasons to view recent stories about the Moynihan Station struggles as part of an encouraging trend on the project. For one thing, Governor Spitzer has personally entered negotiations. Spokesman Errol Cockfield confirms that last week Spitz convened his first face-to-face meetings with the Dolans (who own Madison Square Garden) and the developers who own air rights to the intended Moynihan site. One player intimate with the negotiations described this as “shuttle diplomacy,” and apparently it’s had an effect.
the sports section
Stephon Marbury Is Back, and PrayingStephon Marbury was back in Madison Square Garden last night after a week of absence forced by Isiah Thomas. (Marbury is on the injured list because of ankle surgery, but last week we learned that Thomas had banned the Knicks point guard from home games, and even went so far as to leave his name off a list of backcourt players when talking about the 2008–2009 season.) Marbury said that some of Thomas’s comments this week “bothered” him a lot, but that he “prayed to God” he would return full-time next season. From the Daily News:
“Whatever [Thomas] is saying he is going to do I can’t change his mind. I can tell you how I feel about the organization and how I feel about Mr. Dolan. He didn’t have to sign the bill for me to come here. I respect him a lot despite all of what is going on.”
Things have gotten so bad in Knicksville that now announcers rush through reading off Thomas’s name so the crowd won’t have time to boo. Marbury himself calls it a “circus.” Since it’s become clear that the feuding duo probably won’t both be back next season, but maybe one or the other will, the game of sucking up to Jimmy Dolan has begun.
STEPH: I WANNA STAY [NYP]
Stephon Marbury back in ‘circus’ [NYDN]
in other news
Presenting America’s Next Top Beckham: Cruz!Since we already saw the Spice Girls perform in Newark last week, we didn’t get around to seeing them at Madison Square Garden last night. And, boy, are we sorry. During a heartfelt rendition of “Mama,” the girls pulled their real-life children onstage. Baby Spice brought her son Beau up, Scary Spice held on to tiny Angel Iris, and Ginger had her daughter Bluebell. All of them are adorable and under the age of 2. But the spotlight was stolen by the Beckham kids. As Posh Spice brought forward her three boys, little Cruz broke away from Brooklyn and Romeo and began break-dancing. He kicked, he weaved, he even spun on his head. Predictably, the crowd went insane. We’re predicting he’ll be the newest Beckham hero, just in time for his third birthday tomorrow! Click above to watch his moves (the action starts at about 3:30), and imagine just how spectacular he’s going to turn out when he gets to be Lourdes’s age.
Where Did He Get Such Talent? [DListed]
Earlier: The Spice Girls Set List, as Interpreted By Hamish Bowles
Chris Rock Has a Good Question About Giuliani“Everyone says Giuliani was great on 9/11,” said Chris Rock during his show at MSG on New Year’s Eve. “What about on 9/10?” Joshua Jackson refused to let anyone sit with him and girlfriend Diane Kruger at the Soho Grand’s New Year’s Eve party. ABC anchor Bob Woodruff has made a full recovery from his Iraq injuries and recently went skiing. Eddie Murphy’s ex-wife Nicole Murphy hung out at the Plumm with New York Giant Michael Strahan while Murphy was getting ready to marry Tracey Edmonds on an island in the South Pacific. Britney Spears’s latest team of lawyers dumped her after a “breakdown in communication.”
Pete Wentz Wishes Everybody Were Gone So He Could Just Be NakedWill Smith plays the last man on Earth in I Am Legend, and at the premiere at the Wamu Theater at Madison Square Garden, when we asked the predictable “what if it were you” question, there were lots of predictable answers — living in mansions, driving other people’s sports cars, wearing diamonds, finding food, etc. But rocker Pete Wentz had a refreshing outlook on the whole scenario: “I’d probably just go everywhere naked,” Wentz figures. “I like being alone a lot,” the Fall Out Boy front man told us. “I turn off my phone. That’s my best way to do it.” Based on trailers of I Am Legend, however, Wentz questions the premise. “From the preview, it looks like he’s got his dog in the movie. And that’s not really like being alone. That’s like a dog buddy flick, you know.” And Wentz never quite feels alone with his English bulldog, Hemingway, around. “He looks like an alien,” Wentz says. “He looks like Stitch, and he behaves like Stitch, actually. Prime mission: to destroy everything I have in my house. He’s like, is this an antique book? Delicious!” What a bummer. Now we can’t name our dog Hemingway. —Bennett Marcus
Hear more about I Am Legend from Will Smith, Alice Braga, and others at our complete coverage of last night’s premiere.
the sports section
Isiah Thomas Finds a New Team Member to Hate OnDuring last night’s game against the Mavericks, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas went from just letting down his fans, as per usual, to downright turning against them. As Madison Square Garden (including fellow NYC athletes Oliver Perez and John Maine, who both pitch for the Mets) booed away, Isiah turned to a section of season-ticket holders and began accusing them of causing the Knicks’ poor play. We love the coverage of this for two reasons. One, because it seems like it was just one embittered fan who sparked not just the News and Post stories, but also an AP article that was picked up all over the country. All of the pieces on Isiah turning against fans contain quotes from Mara Altschuler, who Google tells us is a television producer who has worked for CBS and Martha Stewart. Altschuler, one of those white season-ticket holders Isiah doesn’t care about, was apparently so mad that contacting three major news outlets was the only thing that would make her feel better. The other awesome thing about this coverage is that Isiah allegedly called the fans in the Garden “the sixth player,” claiming that they had just as big an effect on play as the men on the court. Which is something we completely understand. It’s like how Manhattan was the fifth lady on Sex and the City, people! Except if the fifth lady somehow cockblocked the other ladies. And the other ladies couldn’t get a goddamned rebound to save their lives.
The Garden of Hate [NYP]
Isiah Thomas’ Appeal Lost on Fans [NYDN]
the sports section
The Knicks Have Us All in a TizzyThe Knicks are in such a puzzling downward spiral that Daily News reporters can’t even agree on what’s up with their favorite team. After coach Isiah Thomas kicked the whole team off the court during practice yesterday for lack of “hustle,” the paper’s main article claims that there is “increasing speculation that Thomas is on the verge of being fired.” “It is a three-ring circus” among the players and staff, said a source. “It’s getting worse.” But Mike Lupica, the paper’s legendary sports columnist, says “Isiah Thomas can’t get fired for anything Jimmy [Dolan, chairman of the Knicks] still believes in Isiah, and there is no reason to believe that he’s going to stop any time soon.” Lupica suggests Dolan and Thomas stand in the middle of the Garden have a town-hall-style meeting, listening to what their paying fans have to say about the way they are destroying New York’s team. They’d never do it, but we’re desperately hoping that when fans start speaking with their wallets and stop buying tickets to watch team’s debacles, the pair will start listening up. That or Jimmy’s dad, Charles, will finally pull off his belt and whup the team (and his son) back into shape.
Can we say “whup”? Does that make us sound too butch?
Thomas Kicks Knicks Out Of Practice [NYDN]
Jim Dolan Still Listening to Isiah Thomas [NYDN]
in other news
Anucha Browne Sanders Continues Knicks Full Court Press
In a bizarre twist (as though there have been any twists that weren’t bizarre) in the Isiah Thomas sexual harassment trial, the Post reports that a Knicks intern who succumbed to Stephon Marbury in the back of a car has agreed to testify for the defense. In other words, she’s going to clear Marbury of any wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior (except, you know, cheating on his wife). This is an effort to clear up the impression that lawyers for plaintiff Anucha Browne Sanders are trying to create, which is that the Knicks enterprise is macho and sexist. But just as they try to staunch that wound, another one has sprung open. The Daily News reveals that Browne Sanders unearthed a Burn Book written by Madison Square Garden officials describing what they’d like to do to the comely Rangers ice dancers. And we’re not talking about assisting with a double-hand lift. It boggles the mind why the Knicks haven’t settled yet. This circus of sleaze is only going to get worse, and knowing this city’s tabloids, it’s only a matter of time before the team gets rechristened “The New York Dickerbockers.”
Stephon’s Hoop Skirt to Testify [NYP]
Ice-Skate Shocker Has ‘Em Shivering [NYDN]
Message in a Garden
The Police played New York last night for the first time since 1983, putting on a show of classics in the first of three gigs this week at Madison Square Garden and Giants Stadium. We’d love to have Vulture’s take, but the promoters wouldn’t give our pals a ticket. (Keep an eye out for a review — based on attendance at honest-to-goodness, full-price admission — later this week.) There’s nothing in the Times, either, but one presumes that’s because Jon Pareles got out too late to make his deadline, not because the Police disliked him, too. The Daily News posts a notice today, though, finding the show a bit too tight and scripted. Still, wrote critic Jim Farber, “it’s hard to carp about any show that highlighted a catalogue so rich in winning tunes and clever hooks, let alone one that delivered them with so much zest.” Mmm zesty!
Bank-Branch Infiltration Reaches Madison Square Garden
This just in via e-mailed press release: The space formerly known as the Theater at Madison Square Garden, formerly known as the Paramount Theater and even more formerly as the Felt Forum, will now be known as the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. “The name of The Theater will be changed immediately,” the release reports, and the deal will include signage throughout the Garden and eleven WaMu ATMs at the venue. (Please tell us this doesn’t mean the end of the Chase machines near the Seventh Avenue entrance. WaMu, as we discovered the other night, is now up to a $2 charge for using its ATMs. So much for the buck-fifty stopping there.) Six months ago, the city’s three major sports venues — the Garden, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, — remained proudly unsponsored. Now the Garden’s got WaMu, at least peripherally, Shea’s gone Citi, and only one question remains: Which bank will meet Steinbrenner’s price? Full press release is after the jump.
it just happened
Dolans Finally Take Their Cable Company (and Their Garden, and Their Knicks, and So Forth) and Go HomeIf taking public companies private is the hot new thing in megabusiness, the Dolans just became the most fashionable billionaires out there: After three years and three failed attempts to privatize Cablevision, Chuck and Jim have just worked out a deal with their company’s board that will restore the family’s total control over their lumbering brainchild. Cablevision, which comes complete with holdings like the Knicks and the Rangers, Radio City Music Hall, and over $12 billion in debt, will change hands for $10.5 billion in cash. With the liabilities worked in, that adds up to almost $23 billion. The Dolans pledge to cash out the current shareholders at $36.26 a share, which is their highest offer yet — a hearty 11 percent over the stock’s actual value as of yesterday. We learn all this from the Times, of course, where the Sulzbergers are no doubt paying attention. One hopes.
Cablevision Agrees to Sell Itself to the Dolans [NYT]
Saddam Lives?An agent claims to have forensic evidence and government documents that allege Saddam Hussein is still alive and well. Former CBS News reporter turned professional CBS basher Bernard Goldberg takes shots at Les Moonves and Katie Couric in his newest book. The relationship between 77-year-old Barbara Walters and 80-year-old Robert N. Butler is heating up. Arianna Huffington broke her cheekbone and got stitches after fainting in her office from exhaustion. Taxi tycoon Andrew Murstein bought a suite at Madison Square Garden for $500,000. The man accused of shaking down Oprah Winfrey claims he was set up by her lawyer, according to Radar. Exes Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr continue to dislike each another.
in other news
MSG Brawl Was Best, Worst Thing to Happen to High-School HoopsThree distinct developments are, uh, developing in the wake of Sunday night’s Lincoln High–versus–Boys and Girls High postgame brawl (riot cops! 21 arrests! girls whaling on boys!) outside Madison Square Garden. In the first move, Garden management says it may refuse to host high-school basketball championships in the future. In the second, spooked school officials propose moving the big games from the evening to the afternoon. And in the third, CBS has announced its purchase of MaxPreps, an online sports network that tracks 500,000 high-school basketball games each year. Presumably because they don’t want to have to sue you for using YouTube the next time.
MSG Considers Policy Change After Brawl [WNBC]
CBS Buys Online High School Sports Site [Crain’s]
in other news
That Basketball Brawl Is in Reruns When we read today that a brawl at last night’s PSAL basketball championships at the Garden had spilled out into the streets only to be caught by WCBS’s cameras we thought to ourselves, Haven’t we heard this story before? Well, we had, sort of. In an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s much-beloved-but-nonetheless-canceled Sports Night, the show’s crew captures footage of a mêlée at a fictional high-school basketball game at, yes, the Garden. (Presumably, unlike Sports Night character Natalie Hurley, no one at Channel 2 refused to hand over the tape because of a bad breakup.) Coming up next week on Aaron Sorkin Controls the Universe: SNL is forced to scramble when its star ends up in a Nevada prison just hours before a live taping. Joe DeLessio
Police Arrest 21 in ‘March Badness’ MSG Brawl [WCBS-TV]
Sports Night, “And the Crowd Goes Wild” [YouTube]
the sports section
The Knicks Have Made Progress, EvidentlyCablevision honcho and Madison Square Garden chief Jim Dolan announced today that he’s giving Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas a multiyear contract extension based on the team’s “evident progress” — a term that seems destined to join “mission accomplished” in the Optimist’s Hall of Fame. Let’s review what’s evident, shall we? On the positive side, the Knicks have won 46 percent of their games this season (compared to just 28 percent last year) and are fighting for a playoff spot. On the negative, they’re still the highest-paid team in the NBA (for which Isiah is largely to blame), winning even 46 percent of their games still means the Knicks are losing more than half, and they’re playing mediocre ball against historically weak competition. In other words, the team’s progress seems roughly on pace with that of the Second Avenue subway or the Freedom Tower. So while it’s true they haven’t measurably regressed, Dolan’s use of the prefix “pro” strikes us as a bit much. If we were him, we might have played it safe and gone with “evident gress.” There are definitely clear signs of gress. —Sam Anderson
Hotel Pennsylvania Proves Exhausting
Sherman the English mastiff and his friend Mouse the short-haired Chihuahua (top) waited for their human to check into the Hotel Pennsylvania across from Madison Square Garden yesterday afternoon. Sherman was in town for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which is happening today and tomorrow at MSG.
it just happened
Dems Say No to MSG Convention
And so the 2008 Democratic National Convention goes the way of the 2012 Olympics: Despite Bloomberg’s best laid plans, it won’t be coming to New York City. Moments ago, the Democratic National Committee announced that it will hold its next presidential- nominating convention in Denver. This is no doubt a strategic move, a way to try to attract Coloradans and other Western voters to Big Blue. (New York will no doubt remain safely in the good guys’ column even after this snub.) And after living through the GOP convention here in 2004, did we even want to put up with all that mishegoss again, anyway? Plus, you’ve got to consider it from the Dems’ point of view: The last convention they held at Madison Square Garden, in 1992, nominated Bill Clinton. Wouldn’t want to follow that precedent, wouldja?
Democrats Pick Denver as Convention Site [The Caucus/NYT]
Madison Square Garden Was Full of Bull
The Professional Bull Riders came to New York this weekend to kick off their 2007 Built Ford Tough Series, bringing four rounds of bull-riding, featuring the country’s top 45 riders and some of the industry’s best bucking bulls in four rounds of excitement. New York’s Rima Suqi — you know her as the magazine’s Best Bets editor, but she’s also, as it turns out, a major bull-riding fan — was there, and, after the jump, she reports back on the fifteen ways this weekend at the Garden was different from all other weekends at the Garden.
in other news
A Brief Catalogue of the Aesthetic Sins We Believe the Dolans Wish to CommitThis morning brought the news that Empire State Development Corporation honcho Charles Gargano thinks James Dolan is behind the effort to delay the conversion of the historic James A. Foley Post Office on Eighth Avenue into the new Penn Station. Why would the Dolans — the family that owns Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden — mess with a very popular and once seemingly ironclad plan? Because they want to build a new Garden on the Post Office spot and use the current Garden space for more-lucrative office buildings.
Let’s consider, shall we, the number of awful consequences that would be wrought by that single construction project.
in other news
Dolans to Take Their Cable Company and Go HomeThat crazy, Oedipal media-mogul family, the Dolans of Long Island, seems determined to take Cablevision private. For the second time in sixteen months, chairman Charles and his CEO son, Jim, are offering their shareholders a buyout, this time upping their offer to $27 a share. (Shares in Cablevision — which includes not just the cable company but also trophy properties like Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Knicks and Rangers — rose on the news.)
We at Daily Intel don’t claim to be financial experts. But we’re not bad at reading between the lines of a public statement. “We continue to feel that succeeding in this fiercely competitive environment requires a long-term, entrepreneurial management perspective that is not constrained by the public markets’ constant focus on short-term results,” the Dolans said, and it seems likely that this buyout is the senior Dolan’s bid to keep sinking money into his pet satellite venture, Voom, which has already lost over $600 million and whose launch almost tore the family apart — as chronicled by Joel Siegel a year and a half ago in a March 2005 feature for New York.
Sadly for the Dolans, though, this long-term investment strategy might be a boon only to Charles’s Voom. As for Jim’s pet project — throwing maximum money at the Knicks with no discernible positive effect — we have a feeling fans will always retain their constant focus on short-term results.
Oedipus at the Garden [NYM]
Dolans Try New Bid to Take Cablevision Private [NYT]