Sen. Jessica Ramos blocks Steve Cohen's casino bid next to Mets ballpark

New York Post
Sen. Jessica Ramos blocks Steve Cohen's casino bid next to Mets ballpark

A state lawmaker who represents the communities around the Mets’ Citi Field has temporarily blocked billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen’s plan to build a casino and entertainment complex in the lots next to the ballpark.

Cohen needs legislation approved by the state Legislature in Albany in order to start a commercial venture in the lots around Citi Field.

But Sen. Jessica Ramos told The Post Sunday she would not introduce a bill in the final weeks of the legislative session.

“I had a very productive town hall on Friday which is going to be the first of many conversations I have with my neighbors,” Ramos said. “My neighbors and I are not currently in a place where it would be appropriate to introduce parkland alienation legislation.”

The lots and other property around Citi Field in Willets Point are deemed parkland — designated as part of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park back in 1939.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens) introduced legislation in March that would allow Mets owner Steve Cohen to redevelop the overflow parking lots around the baseball team’s Citi Field into a casino and entertainment complex.

But the measure can’t become law without support from the Senate and of course, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Ramos, as the local senator, has leverage over the designation — an important first phase for Cohen and his New Green Willets LLC to redevelop the property around Citi Field.

Ramos estimated that “65 percent” of people who spoke up at the session opposed the casino project.

A 25,000-seat professional soccer stadium is also planned in the vicinity.

The legislative session ends in June. The state casino siting commission has yet to issue any of the three downstate casino licenses.

A rep for Cohen released a statement saying input from Ramos and residents about redevelopment for the site will continue.

“We have been working closely with Senator Ramos from the beginning and her input has been an important part of our approach. We will continue to partner with her and our neighbors in Queens as we incorporate their feedback and have an open dialogue with the community and a transparent process on how best to reimagine the 50 acres of asphalt around Citi Field,” the spokesperson said.

“Based on the input we have received across 15 listening sessions, hundreds of meetings and over 20,000 door-to-door conversations, we believe that both Mets fans and the surrounding community will like what they see when we unveil a vision anchored in new public green space, thousands of new and permanent jobs and entertainment that brings people to the area every single day of the year.”

Meanwhile, about 100 people protested Sunday against Las Vegas Sands opening a casino at the Nassau Hub, which includes the old Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.

The rally took place outside the county legislature’s office in Mineola.

Hofstra University also has expressed opposition to having a casino nearby.

But the Republican-led county legislature, following County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s lead, is expected on Monday to approve a lease for Sands to build a casino there, if the state approves a license.

People at the rally held signs saying, “Save our youth!”, “Say no to a casino”, “The House always wins — Nassau loses” and “Gambling = addiction.”

Charlie Kelly, a Garden City resident, said,  “It’s outrageous that they’re gonna try to put this in the center of Nassau County, and turn what was Stewart Avenue into a Nassau strip — the equivalent of the Vegas Strip.”

Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said, “No one really thinks a casino is the best use for the hub site — they really don’t. I respectfully asked our legislators, who are going to be voting on this, and county and town officials, to ask themselves — whether they would want their legacy to be that they brought a casino into the heart of Nassau County.”

Mineola Mayor and high school social studies teacher Paul Pereira said a casino would sully Nassau’s reputation, not boost it.

“This is the county that became the Cradle of Aviation in the teens, 20s and 30s. This is the county that built for our Second World War. This is the county that put a man on the moon with the lunar module, with Grumman and the Republic. This is the county where people would come and visit to be the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby” by F Scott Fitzgerald. This is the county that gave us the likes of Billy Joel,” Pereira said.

 “Now this is going to be our legacy that we’re going to put up a casino. We want to become Atlantic City?,” he asked.

The state is expected to approve three casino licenses, with a bulk of revenue from licensing fees and revenues going to prop up the financing of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  

But opposition is building elsewhere against casinos. Brooklyn’s Community Board 13 recently approved a non-binding resolution against locating a casino along the Coney Island Island boardwalk. Many Manhattanites also don’t want a casino in or around their neighborhoods.

Other gaming operators are vying for one of three downstate casino licenses.

Gaming giant Bally’s is betting on The Bronx — proposing a casino on the Trump Organization’s public golf course at Ferry Point.

The owners of the existing slots parlors at the Aqueduct race track in Ozone Park, Queens, and Yonkers race track — Genting/ Resorts World and MGM’s Empire City — are expected to submit bids to expand their offerings to include table games.

Others planning bids to operate a casino include the Steve Ross-Related Companies/Wynn Resorts partnership for Hudson Yards, and the landlord SL Green/Caesars Entertainment team in Times Square.

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