James Dolan: Reopening MSG and NYC are intertwined

Even though Game 1 ended in a heart-breaking last-second Knicks defeat, it is hard to view the return of a raucous in-person crowd to Madison Square Garden — for a Knicks playoff game no less — as anything other than a huge win for the people of New York.

"I have to say that Sunday night the crowd was even stronger than I thought it was going to be and I think it was reflective of the fact that there's been nothing going on in New York City for 14 months," Knicks and MSG owner James Dolan said. "And people are really really ready so that's a really good sign so you know."

While there's no doubt Game 1 was a huge step in the city's road to recovery — 15,000 fans going crazy inside the Garden — Dolan said a lot still needs to be done outside the Garden before the city can fully return to normal.

"I think that the desire is there but are we going to be able to do the things to bring the market back?" Dolan said.

To that end, as someone with a major financial stake in the city's recovery, he is currently focused on the race for mayor. And he's trying to get voters thinking about the race as well.

Dolan started the Coalition to Restore New York, a political SuperPAC focused on getting each candidate on the record on five quality-of-life issues he views as critical to the city's future: putting people back to work, public safety, the budget, stopping the exodus of people leaving the city, and restoring tourism. 

"Nobody stands alone here, and this is our way of participating," Dolan said. "Rather than advocating for a candidate, we're advocating that voters learn what the candidates' positions are and that they make an informed choice."

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During a tour through the hallowed halls backstage at the world's most famous arena, Dolan said the success thus far of the vaccines has paved the way for a blockbuster end of the year for music fans.

"Most of the acts weren't planning on starting until the fall so this is going to be, starting in the fall, the biggest concert year, I guarantee, ever," Dolan said. "There's hardly going to be a dark night. And all grade-A acts."

Dolan believes the key to getting arenas back to full capacity and keeping them that way is vaccinated fans.