Dozens of restaurant and small business owners urge Sen. Ramos to support the $8B Metropolitan Park proposal at Citi Field

Queens Borough President Town Hall in Corona
State Sen. Jessica Ramos speaks during a community town hall hosted by the Queens Borough President’s Office at the Aliento de Vida Christian Church in Corona on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Around fifty restaurant and small business owners from Corona, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst signed a letter asking state Senator Jessica Ramos to support the $8 billion Metropolitan Park proposal from New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International to build a casino and entertainment complex on the parking lot adjacent to Citi Field.

Jessica Rico, the owner of Mojitos Restaurant & Bar in Jackson Heights, hand-delivered the letter to a Ramos staffer while the Senator was in Albany on April 19.

Jessica Rico, owner of Mojitos Restaurant & Bar in Jackson Heights, poses for a photo on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights on Thursday, April 11, 2024.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Rico said she has known Ramos for years and felt that as a community representative, she should support such “a marvelous project” and the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and improve the business community in neighborhoods around Citi Field.
“We see a good opportunity for us,” Rico said. “All year more tourists [would be] around here, it’s a good impact on all the small businesses in the area, so we hope she supports the project.”

Before construction could start, Cohen would need Ramos to introduce parkland alienation legislation in the Senate because the 50 acres of parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood is technically part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Ramos has hosted three town halls to garner feedback from her constituents and plans on making her decision known in mid-May.

“Throughout this process, I have been asking my neighbors to participate and keep the lines of communication open,” Ramos said. “We received the letter and are considering it alongside all the other community feedback.”

In addition to the casino, Metropolitan Park would include a 25-acre park, a Hard Rock International Hotel, a Queens food hall, and a live music and entertainment venue. In the letter, the small business and restaurant owners wrote that they “wholeheartedly endorse converting this asphalt into a vibrant economics and social hub” with 15,000 new jobs desperately needed in their neighborhoods still recovering from the pandemic. They also noted the “substantial advantages for the surrounding area,” including more than $1 billion in direct community benefits Cohen and Hard Rock International would unlock if their Metropolitan Park proposal is granted one of the three downstate full casino licenses that will be awarded late next year.

Map is courtesy of Queens Future LLC

“Our small businesses have been engaged by the project’s representatives asking us for input, including our vision for this space,” the business owner wrote. “Most importantly for our small businesses, it will bring visitors from all around the world to our area who can become customers for our restaurants and shops.”

They added that they attended one or more of the Ramos town halls and are confident that her work will be remembered as “instrumental in improving” their communities. They closed out the letter stating, “We need Metropolitan Park.” It was signed by the owners of Jackson Diner, Pio Pio, Kabab King, and many other area restaurants and small businesses such as Colombia Car Stereos, Sol Boulevard, and Jackson Meds Pharmacy.

After delivering the letter, Rico said she had no idea what Ramos would decide.

“It is so important for us because she is part of the community so we hope she supports the project,” Rico said. “This area is amazing. Now we can show you this special area that we have here in Queens. Hopefully, this project will be a reality with the support of Jessica, hopefully. Let’s see what happens.”