Sponsored: Local business owner leads cheers for proposed Metropolitan Park

Photo courtesy of Manji Singh

Last November, when New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Queens community leaders unveiled the proposal for Metropolitan Park, local restaurant owner Manji Singh was all in.

Photo courtesy of Queens Future LLC

To Singh, the owner of Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights on 74th Street, the $8 billion proposal to transform the 50 acres of asphalt around Citi Field into a sports and entertainment park seemed like an idea whose time has come.

The list of amenities attached to the proposed park reads like the greatest hits from a business owner’s wish list: a music venue, food hall, park, waterfront development, casino and hotel and conference center. In other words, life — and foot traffic.

“It will significantly increase traffic in the wider community and help small and large businesses alike,” said Singh.

Singh’s view is one with a wide lens. A second-generation restaurateur, Singh inherited his business from his father, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s from Punjab India. In 1983, the senior Mr. Singh purchased American Diner in Jackson Heights, a busy breakfast, lunch and dinner joint on 74th Street.

Mr. Singh added Indian dishes to the menu, and slowly, as the neighborhood became more Indian, the American fare disappeared. He adopted the name Jackson Diner and passed it down to his son and it’s been a mainstay of the neighborhood ever since.

Their North Indian blend of curries and tandooris have attracted marquee names through its doors — Hillary Clinton, Harrison Ford and Sly Stallone, to name just a few.

The way Singh sees it, Metropolitan Park will add considerably more “sizzle” to the area, a year-round entertainment destination for locals and tourists alike. “More people coming to Queens to enjoy its diverse cuisine and ethnic heritage is a positive development,” he said. “In my experience, baseball games and tennis venues next door have increased restaurant traffic to my restaurant. Having events year round will further benefit every business in the area.”

To get to this proposal stage for Metropolitan Park took a lot of time. Over the last three years, Steve Cohen, alongside fellow investor Hard Rock International, have met with community groups, elected officials, Mets fans and those who live and work in the surrounding neighborhoods — business owners like Singh.

There have been 15 community workshops, hundreds of meetings with local leaders and over 40,000 door-to-door conversations with neighbors. Hundreds of ideas have been bandied about.

“Travel is a good source of revenue for Queens, especially considering that the whole 50 acres of land is going to be developed,” said Singh, who added: “There is no place in Queens to go for what is being proposed at Metropolitan Park. People must travel to Belmont or Manhattan, or further for entertainment. Now, it’s in their backyard.”

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.