For years, the New York Times has hectored the city about “corporate welfare,” those tax reductions meant to keep companies, and the jobs that go with them, in Rudy Giuliani’s New York. But less than a decade after getting $29 million from the Dinkins administration to build a new printing plant in Queens, the sachems of 43rd Street have their hands out again.
This time, though, the mayor isn’t writing a check – at least not yet. The Times has asked for a plum deal to build a new headquarters tower near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. According to a real-estate developer not involved with the deal, the Times has “asked for the world,” including tax abatements for the third of the building it plans to rent out to other companies. Another person familiar with the negotiations says the paper is asking for “more than anyone else – a deal bigger than Reuters, bigger than Boston Properties.”
One reason for the city’s newfound parsimony, as one development lawyer puts it, is that “they’re not giving away the same packages that they were a couple of years ago.” But others speculate that Rudy just doesn’t like the coverage he gets in the Times, and this is a chance to retaliate. “A lot of people are saying that the mayor’s holding the Times hostage on this. But that’s not true,” insists a person familiar with the city’s position. “What’s going on is negotiation. The Times is in the clouds. When they come down to earth,” a deal could happen.
Neither the Times nor the city’s Economic Development Corporation would comment on ongoing negotiations. Times reporter Charles Bagli, who covers real estate and broke the story of his own employer’s wanderlust, says that he “can’t say the business side has been completely happy” with his coverage, but that he hasn’t been interfered with.
At the annual State of the Times meeting at the New Amsterdam Theater on February 29, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was willing to confirm that the paper was thinking of moving. But when employees pressed further, he said, “Well, look, the guy who keeps breaking the story is here, so I’m not saying shit.”