Some Flushing, Queens, residents aren’t on board with a new casino opening up near Citi Field. So much so, a rally was held last week to protest the idea of a New York casino moving into the neighborhood.
The figurehead for the potential casino is New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who has been open about his desire to bring a gaming venue to Flushing for a few years now. Early in 2022, Cohen formed New Green Willetts LLC to lobby city and state politicians on the idea of bringing a casino to Flushing.
Earlier this year, the group even hosted several “visioning sessions” at the ballpark so locals could share their thoughts. Cohen has targeted 50 acres of Flushing parkland as the potential site of the casino.
Flushing residents believe the area needs an economic driver. However, they don’t believe a casino is the answer to the problem.
Local leaders believe a NY casino would be predatory
A casino in Flushing is concerning to residents and local leaders for a number of reasons. One protestor told ABC 7 it would “siphon off money from local communities, while residents-like many in Flushing-are struggling with rent and the soaring cost of living.”
Sarah Ahn of the Flushing Works Center worries a casino would result in locals developing gambling addictions, which would only cause more problems in the area. When Ahn spoke at the protest, she said:
“We urge everyone to join us in not only rejecting the racist casino plans but in protecting our community, our residents, small businesses and jobs, and demanding development that helps Flushing thrive”
Rebecca Pryor, executive director of the Guardians of Flushing Bay, also shared her thoughts at the rally.
“Our neighbors have been flooded in their homes,” Pryor said, “our waterways are soaked in sewage and our local park is one of the most prone to flooding in NYC. Communities from Flushing to Corona to East Elmhurst are in the 95th percentile for toxic air quality and proximity to traffic.”
“We need transparently planned, community-generated neighborhood projects that absorb rainfall, reduce air pollution, protect our public parkland and prioritize-rather than prey upon-our environmental justice communities.”
The group’s response to the backlash
According to the Queens Chronicle, a spokesperson for Cohen said the community is at the top of the group’s list of priorities for the project. The spokesperson made it clear that residents want more for the 50-acre area from what they’ve heard in the various community meetings hosted by New Green Willetts LLC.
They said more meetings, as was staged earlier this year, will take place to get further insight from Flushing residents. They believe doing so will help “further inform our ultimate vision for the area.”
There are three downstate casino licenses up for grabs, and the Gaming Facility Location Board is the regulating body that will decide which applicants receive a license. If Cohen and his group do apply for a license, they’ll have plenty of competition.