An act introduced in the New York State Assembly could pave the way for a potential casino near Citi Field.
Assemb. Jeffrion Aubry referred A5688 to the Committee on Cities on Wednesday, an act that, if passed, would authorize New York City to “discontinue certain parkland” in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. That includes “at least twenty acres” of open space targeted by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen for a downstate NY casino in Queens. The area is essentially just “asphalt parking lots,” as the proposal states.
Specifically, the act would authorize the city to enter into an agreement with New Green Willets, LLC, Cohen’s lobbying firm. In turn, Cohen would use the land as the foundation of a gaming facility as well as additional commercial, retail, entertainment, hospitality and recreational developments.
How Assembly act could pave way for NY casino in Queens
Cohen’s interest in a New York casino adjacent to Citi Field has been well-documented. (Although an actual casino partner remains unofficial, despite a bevy of rumors.) Specifically, the Mets owner has targeted 50 acres of Flushing parkland as a potential site for a gambling facility.
As noted, A5688 carves out “at least” 20 acres for development. Such authorization, according to the proposal, will only occur once “the city of New York dedicates an amount equal to or greater than the fair market value of the parklands being discontinued towards the acquisition of new parklands and/or capital improvements to existing parklands and recreational facilities within the borough of Queens.”
The act goes on to note that if construction of a casino does not begin within 15 years of its effective date, the parklands will revert back to the parks and recreation department of the state.
If passed, the act would take effect immediately.
The proposed legislation also spells out that the city would need to acquire replacement parkland or invest in capital improvements of existing parklands on par with the fair market value of the discontinued parkland. Additionally, the replacement parkland must include 20 acres of open space within the 50-acre project area and a connection from the passerelle to the bay.
Aubry shies away from support of Queens casino
While the proposal does mention “gaming facility,” it emphasizes an important detail:
“Nothing herein shall be construed as intended to preempt any provision of article 13 of the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law,” referring to a statute that pertains to “Destination Resort Gaming.”
Obviously even if the act passes, Cohen and Co. still must go through the request for applications process to obtain a downstate NY casino license. That means gaining public support, the approval of a Community Advisory Committee and ultimately a recommendation from the Gaming Facility Location Board. In an effort to exercise diligence, the state likely will not award licensing for three new New York casinos until later this year or potentially early 2024.
And while he did include “gaming facility” within the proposal, Aubry, who represents the district that includes Queens, has made sure to keep a relatively safe distance from official support of a casino in the area.
“They have talked to me about it a number of times,” Aubry told The City.
“The casino in my mind is important to them — not so important to me.”
That said, Aubry remains in favor of “full development” of the area.
Does Queens area even want a casino?
Cohen has dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying officials for a casino development plan. And in an effort to hear from locals, he and his group have held several “visioning sessions” to receive public input.
However, unsurprisingly, there remains a faction of detractors, as shown earlier this month when a rally was held to protest the idea of a NY casino in Queens.
Fear of rising gambling addiction was a common response. So, too, was concern that a gaming facility would “siphon off money from local communities, while residents-like many in Flushing-are struggling with rent and the soaring cost of living,” as one protestor put it.
Time will tell whether Cohen and his team can get enough community support to move forward with casino development. But this act — if passed by the Assembly and agreed upon by the Senate — would create space for Cohen’s vision of a New York casino near Citi Field.