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Queens Chronicle

Koch and the Garden

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:30 am

The Knicks did not ask their fans to observe a moment of silence on the passing of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch Friday night but they did put his photo and pictures of his life on the Jumbotron during the first quarter. In a moment that Koch would surely have loved, the crowd cheered mightily.

It was the least the Knicks could have done, not just because they are a New York-based NBA franchise but because in 1982 Mayor Koch gave the then-owners of Madison Square Garden, Gulf & Western, a permanent exemption from paying New York City real estate taxes. Veteran sports business author and lecturer Evan Weiner estimates that over the last 30 years the Garden has saved roughly $300 million cumulatively from Koch’s largesse.

In fairness to Koch, New York City was then just starting to come out of its 1970s financial morass. Times Square was still very seedy and the crime rate was uncomfortably high. There was a trend all across the country for professional teams to build stadiums and arenas in the suburbs. Both Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Arena opened in East Rutherford in 1977, the year that he was first elected mayor. The Nassau Coliseum was only five years old at the time.

Given the environment, Gulf & Western executives figured they had the leverage to threaten to move the Knicks to Long Island and the Rangers to New Jersey. In retrospect it was a bluff, but Koch knew that the departure of a pair of highly visible sports franchises would be devastating to the image of a city that was coming back.

Although he was not a sports fan the way his successors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani were, Koch was well aware of how the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants for California was always going to be part of Mayor Robert Wagner’s legacy, and he did not want the same thing to happen to him.

Now that Super Bowl XLVII is behind us, the attention will turn to our area since MetLife Stadium will be hosting the game next year.

You can start counting the “Snowmageddon” headlines. Nobody gets worked up if the NFC or AFC championship games, which take place two weeks before the Super Bowl, are played in Arctic conditions, so why all of the obsessive talk about a Super Bowl being played in cold weather?

Speaking of bowls, the Pro Bowl has become a subject of ridicule because the players don’t go all out. OK, so what? I think that it’s cool that the NFL’s best get together in Honolulu after the end of a tough season and participate in an event that reminds us of the pickup games we played in our schoolyards.

Let me borrow a bit from the Post’s Phil Mushnick. Lookalikes: New Jets general manager John Idzik and actor Mike White, who co-starred in the weird cult indie flick “Chuck & Buck” and is currently in the HBO series “Enlightened.”

It is one thing not to like Alex Rodriguez but the Daily News crossed the line when they ran the headline “Hip, Hip Hooray” referring to A-Rod’s ailing hip that may force him to retire. Rejoicing over a player’s physical pain is highly distasteful, and the fact that A-Rod may have been a steroids user as recently as last year does not give the News license to gloat.

I wonder if the Brooklyn Nets will win a game against either the Miami Heat or Houston Rockets before I collect Social Security.

Nets center Brook Lopez got a well-deserved reward when he was named to the NBA East All-Star team, as he’ll back up his crosstown rival, the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler.

It’s no secret that CNN’s ratings have languished in recent years and the network is turning to sports to try to give them a spark. The Turner network recently signed longtime ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols and will start using the brand of one of its websites, Bleacher Report, for features on CNN and its sister channel, Headline News. I wonder if Turner execs will try to revive the old CNN/SI Network, which went defunct in the early 1990s when Time Warner executives decided they did not want to compete with ESPN.

After a two-year absence from our area, Michael Jordan and Nike will bringing their Jordan Brand Classic, one of the top two U.S. high school all-star basketball tournaments, to the Barclays Center on April 3.

Jordan Brand Classic’s formidable rival, the McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Game, will take place in the city of Michael Jordan’s glory, Chicago, on April 13. Queens players who may go to the McDonald’s game are Jon Severe from Middle Village’s Christ the King High School and Jordan Washington from St. Albans’ Pathways Prep.

Be sure to catch a terrific documentary, “Granny’s Got Game,” which showcases a group of women in their 70s who play competitive basketball and makes its debut tomorrow at Barnard College’s Athena film Festival.

I asked Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders before his team’s Friday night game with the Knicks at the Garden whether he still gets jokes about his name because of the old HBO late-night talk-show satire, “The Larry Sanders Show,” which starred Garry Shandling. “I got that a lot as kid but not in the NBA,” he said with a smile. He added that he has never met Shandling but would welcome the opportunity.

Food and fun

Ed Koch certainly enjoyed New York City’s many fine restaurants, and there is little doubt that he would have loved the Chocolate Week promotion running in many of the city’s French restaurants from Feb. 4 to 13 as a way of building awareness for Valentine’s Day. Chocolate dessert and wine pairings are available at approximately half of their normal menu prices. For more information, log onto chocolateweeknyc.com.

Speaking of desserts, Jerry Greenfield, who along with his childhood friend from Merrick, Ben Cohen, founded Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, returned to New York last Thursday night to introduce a new flavor, 30 Rock, in honor of the NBC program that ended its seven-year run last week. The new flavor consists of lemon Greek yogurt and blueberry lavender swirl in honor of the show’s lead character Liz Lemon, portrayed by Tina Fey, who has agreed to let Ben &Jerry’s use her likeness since some of the proceeds will benefit an early childhood education nonprofit, Jumpstart.

Papua, New Guinea is arguably the most remote spot on this planet not counting the North and South poles. It is still in many ways that land that time forgot. Officials of the area are trying to bring tourists into the area and are raving about it being a pristine place for sports fishermen. At a press event in New York two weeks ago, a tourism executive had some fun with the old cannibal image of its tribes. “We were thinking of using ‘We used to eat you but now we greet you,’ as our marketing slogan,” he chuckled. That’s what you call a great line!

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