As New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International look to build support for a plan to redevelop a 50-acre parking lot to the west of Citi Field into “Metropolitan Park“—which would consist of a casino, an entertainment complex, hotels and 20-acres of park space—Hard Rock hosted job and info sessions earlier this month at the New York Hall of Science in Corona and at The Queensboro restaurant in Jackson Heights.
More than 250 small business owners, community-based groups and workforce development organizations participated in the sessions to learn about job opportunities related to construction, hotel, gaming, food service and entertainment.
“Hard Rock at Metropolitan Park is a long-term investment into the people and businesses of Queens,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, who attended the sessions. “Not only will our venue bring people together for memorable shared experiences, but we can create jobs with competitive salaries and benefits and life-long careers adding to the more than 60,000 workforce we employ around the world. We’re excited to bring our unique brand of world-class entertainment — along with jobs and opportunity — to Queens.”
Cohen said in a statement that the development would create more than 15,000 jobs and economic opportunities for Queens businesses and restaurants.
“Metropolitan Park is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn 50 acres of asphalt into a year-round sports and entertainment destination – creating thousands of permanent union jobs, and year-round employment in the process,” Cohen said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with these community organizations to help recruit, train and hire New Yorkers.”
Elmhurst resident Mo Chang, owner of coffee distribution company Ethikvest Nature LLC, was impressed by Allen’s presentation.
“I thought it was a great meeting, a very informative meeting and the fact that Hardrock’s CEO flew into town just to meet with us shows his interest in working with the locals, the small businesses of Queens,” Chang said, who attended the Corona event. “There are critics that look at this proposal and see just the casino, but it’s much more than that. The whole project would benefit all of Queens not in the short-term but over the long-term.”
Chang added that during the baseball off-season, the huge space where Shea Stadium once stood, goes mostly unused.
“Metropolitan Park would change that and make the area a year-round destination for entertainment and job opportunities and that would be a very big deal for this part of Queens,” Chang said. “Especially with the location right next to LaGuardia Airport, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.”
Before Cohen and Hard Rock International can move forward with the project, legislative action in Albany would be needed before a shovel is permitted to hit the ground, since the parking lot is on public parkland. Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry introduced park alienation legislation last March—which would allow for the development of the city-owned land—but state Sen. Jessica Ramos would have to introduce companion legislation in the upper chamber for the Metropolitan Park proposal to move forward.
After her second town hall on the issue drew hundreds to the Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities Center in November, Ramos was not ready to commit one way or the other.
“My position remains unchanged: I work at the speed of my neighbors, not at the speed of a billionaire’s personal timeline,” Ramos said afterward. “If I was to introduce parkland alienation legislation, it would only be because my community has iron-clad commitments where the benefits vastly outweigh the risks associated with a casino and that there is somehow no better alternative to address the problem of the asphalt parking lot. These are serious, consequential conversations for my neighbors, so we will have at least one more town hall in the new year.”
Chang said that he is aware of the parkland controversy.
“I’m not completely familiar with all of the legal issues yet but I’ve been reading a lot of articles over the issue in the last few months,” Chang said. “What I do know is this is too great an opportunity for the borough’s business community that could also benefit everyone here in Queens, and all of New York City.”