Gambling

Park Proposed for Site Cohen Wants for Queens Casino

Posted on: February 7, 2024, 11:18h. 

Last updated on: February 7, 2024, 12:29h.

Community groups in Queens, NY, recently revealed a plan to turn land currently used as a parking lot for Citi Field into a park. That’s potentially posing a challenge to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s efforts to bring a casino hotel to the same space.

Queens casino
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Queens community groups want to build a park on land he wants to use for a casino. (Image: CNBC)

At a rally last weekend in downtown Flushing, an assortment of climate and community groups pitched a park plan called Phoenix Meadows. That’s an alternative to the casino idea, the latter drawing the ire of some locals in the area.

Phoenix Meadows was designed by a coalition of advocates aligned under the group FED UP — or Flushing for Equitable Development and Urban Planning,” reported Ryan Schwach for the Queens Daily Eagle.

It’s well-known that Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire, wants to turn the Willets Point area near the Mets’ home stadium into a casino resort. He unveiled an $8 billion plan to that effect last November, pitching an entertainment zone featuring 20 acres of park space, dining options, a live music venue, and a casino hotel operated by Hard Rock International.

Park Designation Matters

The land that Cohen and FED UP want currently serves essentially no other function beyond parking for Citi Field.

It is, however, designated as parkland. That’s meaningful because it implies turning the land into a park would be an easy lift. Regarding the casino effort, the property’s parkland designation is relevant, because for the land to be used for another purpose, its classification must be changed. That must be achieved via legislation and New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat representing the communities closest to Citi Field, said she won’t back such a bill.

Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry introduced related legislation last March. But there needs to be a companion bill in the State Senate, and it likely needs to be introduced by Ramos.

Ramos is holding her third town hall on the casino plan on Wednesday night and representatives from groups backing the Phoenix Meadows proposal will attend the meeting. The meeting she conducted on the Queens casino proposal last November reportedly drew several hundred attendees.

The parkland designation is also a potential issue for Bally’s in its quest to turn a Bronx golf course formerly operated by the Trump Organization into a casino.

Assessing Odds for Queens Casino

New York regulators will award three downstate casino permits but the winners might not be revealed until next year.

A potentially lengthy timeline makes forecasting the winners difficult. Conventional wisdom has held that MGM’s Empire City Casino and Resorts World New York — two slots-only venues — will garner two of three permits.

As for operators viewed as being in favorable spots to grab one of the licenses, speculation has centered largely on, in no particular order, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts.

In addition to the parkland designation issue, Cohen and Hard Rock could face another headwind at Willets Point. Resorts World New York is located in Queens, and state regulators, as well as community advocates and policymakers, may be loath to see another gaming venue in the borough.


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