Sen. Ramos delivers potential death blow to Mets owner’s dream of a casino alongside Citi Field

State Senator Jessica Ramos announced Tuesday that she would not introduce legislation that would allow Mets owner Steve Cohen to build a casino next to Citi Field, a proposal supported by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
QNS File Photo

State Senator Jessica Ramos dealt a serious blow Tuesday to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s dream of building a massive casino and entertainment complex on the parking lot adjoining Citi Field where Shea Stadium once stood.

Ramos announced she would not support the $8 billion Metropolitan Park proposal, rejecting major pressure from her colleagues in government, including Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and community leaders from nearby neighborhoods, who urged her to support permitted use legislation that would be required to build the complex on state-owned public parkland.

Community leaders put pressure on Ramos at a recent rally. Photo by Queens Post

“I will not introduce legislation to alienate parkland in Corona for the purposes of a casino. Whether people rallied for or against Metropolitan Park, I heard the same dreams for Corona,” Ramos said in a statement. “We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space, and recreation for the whole family. We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off. I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.”

Metropolitan Park spokesperson Karl Rickett noted that Ramos said herself that alienation of public land should not be at the discretion of one person.

“While we respect Senator Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” Rickett said in a statement. “As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions, and the local community we are confident that we have the best project in the best location.”

He added that the Ramos decision is not a fait accompli.

“We have over a year and multiple pathways to secure the required approvals,” Rickett said. “Our team remains committed to bringing Metropolitan Park to life, with gaming as the only viable economic engine to make the 23,000 jobs, $8 billion investment and substantial community benefits possible.

Ramos is moving ahead with new legislation that would authorize the City of New York to allow development on the 50 acres of parking lot that is technically part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.


“I have drafted an alternative alienation bill that strikes a balance and would allow Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock to build a convention center and hotel, and more than double the proposed open green space,” Ramos said. “The parcel in question is in strategic proximity to LaGuardia Airport and allows for visitors and tourists to feed into our vibrant food scene while addressing the consequence of climate change in the area. Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock would still make a profit, albeit less.”

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry introduced his own parkland alienation bill last March, and signed on to a letter with Richards and Council Member Francisco Moya on May 20 urging her to advance a companion bill in the Senate to allow Metropolitan Park to move forward with the community review process.

“I hope my Assembly counterpart will consider this proposal so we can bring it to the Governor’s office and get to work,” Ramos said. “I recommend the City amend the lease to collect revenue from property tax and allow for speedy renovation of this parcel.”
Ramos concluded her statement by directly addressing the billionaire hedge fund manager and richest owner in Major League Baseball. Mr. Cohen and his team have often declared their love for our community and said they recognize our potential,” Ramos said. “Finding a path forward would be a good way to show it.”

Richards fired back in a statement of his own soon after Ramos made her announcement on Tuesday morning. “There is very little generational wealth in Northwest Queens, where survival work is prevalent, public services are lacking and hard-working immigrant street vendors are displaced and demonized,” Richards said. “That’s why the families of this community so badly deserve the 25,000 good-paying union jobs, the $163 million community investment fund, the Taste of Queens food hall designed for borough-based vendors, critical support for community-based organizations, rising property values and more that the Metropolitan Park proposal puts forth.”

Ramos town hall. Photo by Athena Dawson

Ramos held three heavily attended town hall meetings since last May gauging community feedback on the Metropolitan Park proposal while Richards worked behind the scenes to bring a new economic engine to the borough.

“We are in a state of emergency in Northwest Queens, which was hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and which continues to struggle as the cost of living rises. The Metropolitan Park proposal will create countless avenues for generational wealth building right here in Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and other communities surrounding the proposed site, which is currently a parking lot that sits empty for more than 200 days per year,” Richards said. “By no means should acres of asphalt block the ascending of financial and societal ladders to the middle class by families deserving of upward mobility.”

Courtesy of Queens Future LLC

Cohen’s team presented the Metropolitan Park plans at a Ramos town hall at the New York Hall of Science in February, outlining more than $1 billion in community benefits while making it clear that the entire proposal depended on state approval of one of three downstate full casino licenses that will be awarded late next year. The Ramos announcement has put the Cohen plan in peril, much to the dismay of the borough president.

“Queens is growing like never before, and we must never turn our backs on unprecedented economic development opportunities for communities that have historically been left behind,” Richards concluded. “No one single elected official should be the sole arbiter of this $8 billion investment in our borough, so I strongly urge Governor Hochul and the State Senate to explore other avenues in order to bring the Metropolitan Park proposal to life and ensure that Queens continues to get the money we are owed and deserve.”

Ramos acknowledged that another lawmaker could introduce the parkland alienation legislation that would be needed to build a casino next to Citi Field but she does not think Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would allow it.

“I would be very surprised, and frankly offended if someone would try to go around me and [do] what the people in my district wish,” Ramos said during a virtual press briefing from Albany on Tuesday afternoon. “This is not me trying to play hardball, this is me communicating the wishes of my constituents, the vast majority of whom have expressed that they do not want a casino in our backyard.

She scoffed at the notion that a casino is a must-have for the Mets owner to develop the area.

“Steve Cohen is worth an estimated $18 billion-plus, to my estimation, and so [the] math would dictate that a casino would not be necessary to build out any remaining part of the remaining project,” Ramos said, adding that she is open to further talks. “Steve Cohen is still the owner of the Mets, and in that way one of our corporate neighbors so I will always talk to them and everyone else whether I agree with them or not.”

Ramos reiterated that her polling shows that 75% of her constituents oppose a casino at the location.

“I’m going to continue to be responsive to the will of my neighbors first and foremost,” Ramos said. “That’s who I work for. I don’t work for a billionaire.”