New York senator nears decision on whether to support Steve Cohen’s Queens casino proposal

New York State Senator Jessica Ramos said she could soon decide on whether to back or not the plan to build a casino complex in Northeast Queens, proposed by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Cohen has bid to build a casino, park, and entertainment complex on the parking lot adjacent to Citi Field ballpark which, if approved, would use one of the three available downstate casino licenses. 

Ramos, who held her third and potentially final town hall on Cohen’s $8 billion casino pitch on Wednesday, has the power to make or break the project, as reported by local media, which would be built on a tract of city-owned land technically designated as parkland. 

The casino pitch, put forth by Cohen in November, calls for a casino, hotel, concert venue, and 20 acres of new park space on the redeveloped land, along with a food hall, bars, restaurants, public athletic fields, and several parking garages in partnership with entertainment giant Hard Rock International. 

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen

I want to use all the time that we have to make sure that the community is having the conversation. This is a really important decision, and I do think that still not enough community members know about either proposal or that there is this possibility of a casino coming and our community does deserve to know,” Ramos told reporters after the town hall at the New York Hall of Science.

I’m going to continue trying to inform and educate the public about land use and I hope to come up with a decision by the end of the session.”

For the project to be built on the lot, Ramos and her Assembly counterpart Jeff Aubry would have to introduce a bill in Albany allowing Cohen to forgo the land’s designation. Additionally, Cohen would need to win one of three downstate casino licenses expected to be awarded by the state’s Gaming Commission in the next year to year and a half.

While Aubry introduced such a bill last year and is expected to do so again this year, Ramos is yet to introduce what is known as a ‘parkland alienation bill’. If she decides to support the project, she would have to write, introduce and pass the bill before the end of the state legislature’s session at the start of June.

Ramos said that she would decide whether to support a parkland alienation measure after considering more feedback from residents, Queens Daily Eagle reported. Ramos said her current hesitation can be tied to the weightiness of the decision.

The proposal has faced uncertainty in the face of competing bids, regulatory obstacles, and community opposition. At the same time, the proposal, which is said could create 15,000 construction and long-term union jobs, has the support of a number of labor unions, including District Council 9, Laborers’ Local 79, Cement and Concrete Workers District Council, the Transport Workers Union, and the Building Trades Employers’ Association.

The project, if approved, is likely to have a major impact on the surrounding neighborhoods of Flushing, East Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights, as well as the borough at large, Ramos said.