A poll conducted last month shows that 70% of the respondents agreed that “something new should be built” on the site, with just 18% saying “it should be kept as 50 acres of asphalt.”
Support for the proposal increased to 78% after respondents were given greater detail about key elements, including a casino, a hotel with a live music venue, a Queens food hall, public green space and new connections to the Flushing Bay waterfront in addition to improved public transit and parking and thousands of good paying jobs.
The poll conducted by Shoen Cooperman Research also showed that 68% of the respondents were more likely to support the project with casino gaming as the necessary economic engine that would draw people to the area year-round.
The poll, which was commissioned by the lobbying group New Green Willets, had 600 Queens residents respond between April 7 to April 14.
Over the past 18 months, Cohen and New Green Willets made a significant effort to engage the communities around Citi Field, holding more than 200 meetings with community leaders. There were a total of 15 community workshops and several visioning sessions and meetings with smaller groups.
The “inclusive approach is having a significant positive impact on community perceptions,” said the memo from Shoen Cooperman to New Green Willets. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that the workshops made them more likely to support the project.
“We have been listening to the community for months, and they’ve made it clear they want more from these 50 acres of asphalt,” a Cohen spokesperson said. “It is encouraging to see this confirms what we’ve been hearing: the community wants a shared space with open green space, good-paying jobs, and year-round entertainment.”
Former Astoria councilman Costa Constantinides and Pastor Patrick Young of the First Baptist Church of Corona wrote op-eds published by Schneps Media last month. Constantinides wrote about touring the nation with his son with a mission to visit each Major League Baseball stadium.
“We’ve noticed every stadium is as unique as the cities they represent. Each one with special attributes that a fan can marvel at and enjoy, but many of the newer stadiums have done something different,” he wrote. “They have connected their stadiums to the community around them to build a synergy between the two. They have become an anchor for a transformation around them, spurring economic growth, good jobs, and community benefits.”
Constantinides concluded that for a project to succeed, people must be drawn to the area year-round, not just on game day.
“There is a natural synergy between sports and entertainment that other cities have figured out, which we can tap into here. That’s why I’ve been supportive of the options being discussed, including restaurants, bars, and a hotel with a live music venue, convention space, and a casino,” he wrote. “All of these would make up the economic engine that can finally turn this 50 acres parking lot into something we can all love.”
Pastor Young wrote that during his 17-year tenure, he’s seen economic development projects fall short across Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Flushing.
“When I was at the community visioning sessions, I heard again and again how jobs for local residents and support for locally owned businesses were what people wanted most from any new project,” he wrote. “Like much of the city, we are still working our way back to normal from the depths of the pandemic. And now more than ever we need to foster growth and help our neighbors find good jobs right in our own communities.”
The poll by Schoen Cooperman Research did not address the thorny issue of the 50 acres of the parking lot being on top of parkland. Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry of East Elmhurst in March would allow for the “construction of a gaming facility on parklands” by developers if they replaced it with 20 acres of parkland elsewhere.
“Parks connect communities. When you improve a park or in this case enhance a park, you improve a community,” Constantinides wrote. “We have an opportunity to bring real change to Queens and do it the right way. For months, Steve Cohen and his team have been thorough, responsive, and thoughtful in their engagement with the fans, and most importantly, the community.”