Steve Cohen’s Queens Casino Hits Snag as State Sen. Ramos Opposes Proposal

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State Sen. Jessica Ramos isn’t playing ball, or cards, with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen in his bid for a casino in Queens.

Ramos announced Tuesday that she would not sponsor the “parkland alienation” legislation to allow for the entertainment complex known as Metropolitan Park to be built near Citi Field.

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“We want investment and opportunity; we are desperate for green space and recreation for the whole family. We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the tradeoff,” Ramos said in a statement. “I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.”

While the section of land in question has been designated parkland since the World’s Fair 88 years ago, it has really only ever served as a parking lot for baseball fans and people heading to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The parkland alienation bill sought to change that and would allow for Cohen’s casino plan to move forward, if Cohen won one of the coveted downstate casino licenses.

Instead of passing the bill to convert parkland, Ramos is giving Cohen and his partner, Hard Rock, some of what they’re asking for: a separate piece of legislation that will allow them to build a hotel and convention center and twice the amount of park space than what is there already — but no casino.

Metropolitan Park spokesperson Karl Rickett said there isn’t likely to be an economic engine for a project of this nature without a casino as an attraction, and that the partnership has multiple avenues to take before the New York State Gaming Commission’s 2025 deadline to award the three available downstate casino licenses.

“While we respect Sen. Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” Rickett said in a statement. “As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions and the local community, we are confident that we have the best project in the best location.”

Another state senator could choose to sponsor the bill in Albany, but that would be unprecedented. Also, a bill passed by the New York City Council in April that would allow zoning changes without going through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure would not apply since the site is not already in a manufacturing zone.

Ramos’s opposition to the casino isn’t very surprising considering she released a poll last month that found a majority of her constituents did not want a casino in the neighborhood

However, other elected officials in Queens didn’t agree with Ramos’s opposition to the gaming facility, namely Queens Borough President Donovan Richards who said the Citi Field casino could create routes for building generational wealth for residents.

“There is very little generational wealth in Northwest Queens, where survival work is prevalent, public services are lacking and hard-working immigrant street vendors are displaced and demonized,” Richards said in a statement. “That’s why the families of this community so badly deserve the 25,000 good-paying union jobs, the $163 million community investment fund [and] the Taste of Queens food hall designed for borough-based vendors.”

Even if Cohen gets the support of Ramos, he still has to beat out numerous others proposing to build a casino in New York City.

Related Companies with gaming partner Wynn Resorts wants to build a facility in the western portion of Hudson Yards; the Soloviev Group is banding together with Mohegan for an entertainment district by the United Nations; SL Green Realty, Caesars Entertainment and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation hopes to build a gaming floor in Times Square; and Resorts World New York City is hoping to redevelop its south Queens “race-ino” into a Las Vegas-style casino.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.