Mets owner Steve Cohen is hoping his $8 billion “Metropolitan Park” plan unveiled Tuesday is a home run with the city and community, as it includes a 20-acre public park alongside a casino, hotels, food hall and music venue.
Partnering with entertainment giant Hard Rock International, the Metropolitan Park plan aims to create a year-round entertainment complex on a 50-acre “vacant asphalt” parking lot just west of Citi Field that has not served the community of fans to its full potential.
“It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves,” Cohen said. “When I bought this team, fans and the community kept saying we needed to do better. Metropolitan Park delivers on the promise of a shared space that people will not only want to come to and enjoy, but can be truly proud of.”
The hedge fund billionaire is campaigning for one of the three downstate full casino licenses with a dozen of other applicants. The parking lot is built on public parkland which would require legislative action in Albany. Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry introduced legislation in March that would create “parkland alienation” allowing construction on the city-owned land. State Senator Jessica Ramos would have to introduce companion legislation in the upper chamber for the Metropolitan Park proposal to move forward.
“I will be hosting another town hall on this proposal at the end of the month,” Ramos said. “It’s important that my neighbors look carefully at the details and we’ll continue together with our process.”
Over the last three years, Cohen and his team have met with community groups, elected officials, Mets fans and those who live and work in the surrounding neighborhoods to develop a vision that would give life to a sports and entertainment park. There have been over 15 community workshops resulting in thousands of ideas, hundreds of meetings with local leaders, and over 20,000 door-to-door conversations with our neighbors.
Over 89% of those who have been engaged door-to-door have signed a petition in support of the project, according to a press release.
“As I have made clear throughout my time in office, any developer that seeks to put shovels in the dirt must come prepared to deliver significant benefits to the surrounding community in the form of local hiring, economic opportunities and much more,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “To that end, I’m encouraged by Steve Cohen’s Metropolitan Park plan and its numerous community-centric proposals. Should this project move ahead, I look forward to working with our public and private sector partners to ensure it delivers for workers, businesses and families in North Queens and across the ‘World’s Borough.'”
Highlighting the economic benefits Metropolitan Park would bring to the borough, Cohen’s team said the project would create more than 10,000 permanent year-round jobs and construction jobs, with opportunities for local residents and minority and women-owned businesses for year-round employment.
“This is an opportunity to elevate and celebrate the spirit of Queens, with more local restaurants and vendors, a live music venue, and space for community groups and local artists.” said Pastor Patrick Young, First Baptist Church of Corona. “And it is an opportunity for real investment in local infrastructure, to connect neighborhoods and provide greater transportation options for residents. Above all, though, this is our opportunity to bring thousands of new, good-paying local jobs to the area.”
Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens CEO Costa Constantinides has been a vocal supporter of the project after visiting nearly two dozen Major League ballparks with his son. The former council member has seen how ballpark entertainment complexes can unite disconnected communities.
“For any project to be long-lasting success, we need a way to bring people here year-round and not just on game day,” Constantinides said. “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. All of these would make up the economic engine that can finally turn this 50-acre parking lot into something we can all love.”
Backing from businesses
Several Queens business leaders are supporting Cohen’s vision.
“Queens has long deserved a space that brings everything together – new green space, 365-day-per-year entertainment, better connectivity and a real job creator in the area around Citi Field,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tom Grech said. “No other project has done so much work to truly partner with the community. And it’s this bottom-up approach that gives everyone a voice right from the beginning that works.”
Peter Tu, a member of Community Board 7 and a Senior Advisor of the Flushing Chinese Business Association added his endorsement for Metropolitan Park.
“We have the opportunity to turn the 50 acres of asphalt around Citi Field, right across the creek from downtown Flushing, into things we need,” Tu said. “We need to partner with business and civic leaders who not only have the ability to deliver, but also respect our culture and put the community first, and I appreciate the inclusive approach Steve Cohen and his team have taken.”
Civic associations in neighborhoods surrounding Citi Field have raised their concerns about traffic, crime, and misuse of public parkland and on Oct. 25 a group of more than 60 residents and community members gathered at the Queens Botanical Garden at a town hall organized by the Flushing Anti-Displacement Alliance (FADA). The group formed in 2020 in opposition to the Special Flushing Waterfront District project and discussed their alternate vision for the Willets Point area entitled the Phoenix Meadows plan instead of Cohen’s Metropolitan Park proposal.
“We believe both our neighbors and ourselves deserve this type of investment in public parkland and public space without improvements being tied to a predatory project like the Citi Field casino proposal,” FADA member Cody Hermann said.
Darren Meenan, the founder of the 7 Line Army comprised of more than 1,000 Mets fans, is a staunch supporter of the proposed entertainment complex alongside Citi Field.
“Metropolitan Park delivers on what Mets fans have been asking for, for decades – something to do around the ballpark before and after games,” Meenan said. “Now with Steve Cohen, we are finally seeing investment, creativity, and energy not just with the team but with the entire fan experience. I know that Mets fans are going to be ecstatic to come to Metropolitan Park and enjoy the entertainment options, the bars and restaurants, and the new park space. This is a huge win for everyone.”
Additional reporting by Rachel Butler.