Sponsored: Business owner sees community benefits to proposed Metropolitan Park

Photo courtesy of Marissa Grace

Marissa Grace believes in community. That’s why the owner of Grace Thai Restaurant on Junction Boulevard was enthused when New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and local community leaders announced Metropolitan Park, the proposal to redevelop the 50 acres of asphalt parking lot around Citi Field.

“It will revitalize the space and turn a lifeless parking lot into something that is full of life,” she said. “This vision put forth will change and revolutionize Queens and bring it to the next level.”

Steve Cohen echoes that sentiment. “It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves,” he said when the proposal was announced last November. “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.”

Cohen and his team did outreach — they staged community workshops, had meetings with local leaders and they knocked on more than 40,000 doors to engage with neighbors. That footwork impressed Grace, because community is so important to her and her chef husband.

When they opened Grace Thai in 2019, it was a dream come true. Her husband was commuting from Manhattan for his job nearly two hours each way. His dream was to cook his own recipes. “So we decided to start a restaurant,” she said.

Then the dream turned into a nightmare. Shortly after buying the restaurant, they were renovating the space and buying supplies — and then COVID hit. They had taken out a loan. They were in trouble. But they decided to open anyway during the last week of March. “We didn’t even have a microwave,” said Grace. “We prayed to God for help.”

They were one of the few restaurants that stayed open during COVID. “My husband did things that he didn’t tell me until later because this community was hurting,” she said. “He would regularly double portions of food. Someone came to the restaurant and said MY husband just lost his job and was hungry. We fed them regardless and they have been paying customers since then.”

The way Grace sees it, with the development of Metropolitan Park, it gives her and her husband an opportunity to take care of a larger community. “We have regulars and more importantly we have a community with our restaurant,” she said. “This restaurant changed our life. We contribute to our community, and build something where we live right here in Queens.”

Grace is especially excited about the proposed renovations to the subway, because it will benefit the community. “I am so excited for the station to be redone,” she said. “I constantly see people struggling down those steps with carts or baby carriages. The proposed investment in the station and the area will change the feeling around Citi Field, it will revitalize what is now a parking lot into
something that will bring life to the area.”

Of course, Grace sees personal benefits as well — she thinks their delivery numbers will skyrocket. But she’s also an avid biker who lives in the area. “I would love to bike to the waterfront,” she said. “It would open up the entire area. Restaurants, tourists, people and life will come to Citi Field. The area right now is doing nothing for the community.”

Photo courtesy of Queens Future LLC

Quick facts about Metropolitan Park

● An investment of $8 billion
● Nearly 15,000 good-paying permanent and construction jobs
● 20 acres of new park space and five acres of community athletic fields and playgrounds
● Climate-ready infrastructure including solar, green roofs, and flood mitigation
● Visionary entertainment complex with a Hard Rock hotel, live music venue and gaming
● New connections to the waterfront, park, and surrounding community
● Queens food hall
● Accessible and renovated mass transit station
● Improved and modernized road network, bike paths, and parking infrastructure

For more information, or to lend your support, check out the Metropolitan Park website.