If Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Chris Quinn have their way, New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden, the only place in the world where all four Beatles played solo concerts, will move to a new site so Penn Station can be remodeled, which one Beatle fan told Beatles Examiner July 29 is “disgraceful.”
“There’s a lot of cultural history that took place at Madison Garden from the first one to the current one,” said Fred Velez, who worked as a tour guide for six years at the Garden. “That the current city government of New York is asserting political pressure to force the Garden out, especially since the property is privately and not City owned, I find disgraceful.:
The New York Times reported July 24 the Garden was notified by the City Council it was given a 10 year extension on its special operating permit, but both the mayor and Speaker Quinn are in favor of moving the facilty. The New York Daily News reported last week the council vote 47 to 1 in favor of the move.
“This is the first step in finding a new home for Madison Square Garden and building a new Penn Station that is as great as New York and suitable for the 21st century,” Quinn told the Times. The paper reported that James L. Dolan, who controls the Garden as well as the New York Knicks and New York Rangers who play there, said he expect a $968 million overhaul of the Garden to be finished this fall.
Velez doesn’t think the city should even be considering a move.
“It’s the fourth Madison Square Garden, and its the first arena to be built with the main floor several levels above street level rather than built downward like current arenas are built, an amazing architectural feat. And all arenas built after the current Garden was dedicated in 1968 have basically used its design as the blueprint. So, it’s definitely not a ‘hole in the ground’,” he said.
“Many, many historical events have taken place at the current Garden including the Fight of the Century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier, the visit of Pope John Paul, world championships by the Knicks and the Rangers among other events in sports and politics.”
Not to mention many concerts by all four Beatles during their years as solo artists. Velez says the Garden is the only venue all four solo Beatles played at one time or another.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, at the request of friend Geraldo Rivera, played two charity “One To One” concerts there to benefit Willowbrook Home in 1972. The Garden was also the site of Lennon’s surprise appearance with Elton John on Thanksgiving Day in 1974.
Both George Harrison and Ringo Starr (as well as Bob Dylan and others) performed there at the Concert for Bangladesh benefit in 1971. Harrison also performed there on his U.S. tour in 1974 and at the “Bobfest” tribute to Bob Dylan in 1992.
Paul McCartney performed solo concerts there in 1976, 1989 and 2005, at the Concert for New York City in 2001 and most recently at the 12-12-12 benefit. The Garden has also been the site of concerts by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkel, Barry Manilow, Justin Timberlake, Roger Waters, Elton John (who performed there for the 60th time for his 60th birthday) and Billy Joel, who played a 12-show run, the longest single run by an artist at the venue.
In addition to the Concert for Bangladesh, the venue has been the site of other benefit concerts, including No Nukes and the Big Easy concert to help Hurricane Katrina victims.
“The Garden spent their own money to do the renovations so it wouldn’t be on the taxpayers of New York,” Velez said. “And the Garden owns the property. The city is telling them to get off their own property.”
An online petition has been set up to protest the move.
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