Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan vowed to continue using facial recognition technology to blacklist his corporate adversaries, dismissing the efforts of state lawmakers to stop the practice as an unconstitutional waste of time.
In a rambling and defiant interview on Fox 5 on Thursday, Dolan lashed out at his myriad critics, railed against bail reform, and threatened to withhold booze at a future sporting event if state regulators don’t drop their opposition to his surveillance practice.
“Our values are important to us, too. The Garden has to defend itself,” he said. “People say you’re too sensitive, you shouldn’t defend yourself, it’s something out of ‘The Godfather,’” he continued, before invoking the famous Michael Corleone quote: “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”
Dolan has come under fire for his use of the surveillance technology to remove attorneys working for law firms with active litigation against MSG Entertainment, a holding company he runs that also oversees Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre.
In one highly publicized case, a mother chaperoning her daughter’s Girl Scout troop was removed from a Christmas Spectacular performance after cameras matched her face with a database of photos of lawyers working for banned firms.
But as he faces public indignation, lawsuits, state legislation and an inquiry from New York Attorney General Letitia James, Dolan is digging in and doubling down on his grudges, as he has often done in the past.
On Thursday, he previewed an escalation with the State Liquor Authority, which has threatened to revoke his right to sell alcohol if he doesn’t reverse the controversial policy.
“They’re being extremely aggressive, and they’re saying ‘we’re going to take away your liquor license,’ so I have a little surprise,” Dolan said. “We’re going to pick a night, maybe a Rangers game, and we’re going to shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building.”
He then held up a sheet of paper featuring the face and phone number of SLA Chairman Sharif Kabir, which he said he would circulate to fans during the booze-free night.
“In the United States, there’s a thing called the Bill of Rights,” he said. “This is just about owning property.”
Inquiries to the SLA were not immediately returned.
Dolan, who has not spoken directly to the press for years, also addressed the possibility of Madison Square Garden losing its lucrative tax break, brushing it off as an unlikely move by the state Legislature. “Of course they don’t want to do that,” he said.
He went on to accuse the lawmakers who have challenged him of ignoring larger issues he says are plaguing the city, such as bail reform and high taxes.
“What really needs to happen is the public needs to tell these politicians and the SLA to start working on things that matter to us,” he said. “Like law enforcement. Making it safe in our streets. Getting our taxes in line. Stop people from leaving New York and ruining our city.”
State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, whose district includes Madison Square Garden and who introduced legislation restricting facial recognition technology, said the interview was unsurprising, given the “petty and vindictive behavior that we’ve all come to expect from Dolan.”
“We’re witnessing the meltdown of one of New York City’s most notorious billionaires,” he added.