You heard about the news surrounding a possible event happening in Flushing Corona Park, only to have the story go away and be replaced with the new festival occurring on Randall’s island, the site of Electric Zoo & Governor’s Ball. Here’s where things get interesting. The Times is reporting that Harold M. Ickes, friend of the Mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, dropped $13,000 into the mayor’s re-election campaign, the same day AEG Live (one of Harold Ickes’ lobbying clients) was awarded the permit to throw the event. Two other production companies, Madison Square Garden and Founders Entertainment, had also applied for event permits on the island, but were denied. Harold Ickes has been paid $150,000 to lobby NYC to make it happen.
The Times article goes on to document a total of $19,250 sliding into Mayor de Blasio’s re-election campaign over just the 4 day period leading up to the announcement that AEG Live could drop East Coast Coachella. While city officials stated that each application had been weighted fairly, that’s really not something we’ll ever know. The New York Post has thrown journalistic prudence into the wind and is calling this crony capitalism. We’re looking for more information to paint a more complete picture, but with how much these events generate and the larger issue of event fatigue, a few players can clean up if they’re positioned well. As we’ve seen with SFX, the events still need to be good, but with the general community choosing certain ones and passing on others, these kinds of permits in major cities like NYC are crucial.
As any New Yorker knows, the biggest issue with a festival anywhere in the city is how it massively snarls transit around that area. Randall’s Island has a combination of foot paths, buses & ferry to get people on and off the island, so outside of traditional venues like MSG, Barclay’s & the Pier event spaces on the East/West Side, getting space for a top level headliner is essentially impossible. This forces large event production companies into fights for the same 5 spaces at the same time. Governor’s Ball & Panorama will now be taking place about a month apart and they’re definitely going to have a significant impact on each other. Hence why donations/lobbying efforts like this really distort the market when it comes to what events people in the Tri-State area around NYC can experience. We want the best events to win permits because they’re the best, not because of greased palms.