Hundreds Show Up For Rally To Support Metropolitan Park New York Casino Proposal

Written By Grant Lucas on May 17, 2024
Aerial view of Citi Field in Queens for a story on hundreds of supporters rallying for a Hard Rock casino project called Metropolitan Park.

The past few weeks have seen a barrage of news surrounding the Hard Rock casino project proposed by New York Mets billionaire owner Steve Cohen, who has clearly made a priority of earning the pivotal support of Sen. Jessica Ramos.

While the Queens representative remains undecided about supporting the proposal and introducing land-use easement legislation to make Metropolitan Park a reality, Cohen and his team have stepped on the gas in attempting to sway the lawmaker.

And it appears plenty of residents are on Cohen’s side, as hundreds showed up this week for a rally to support the $8 billion project that would replace the expansive asphalt wasteland around Citi Field.

Organized by the Coalition for Queens Advancement, supporters carried signs reading phrases from “We want jobs” to “We Deserve Nice Things” to “No More Asphalt” to “We want generational wealth,” according to the New York Post.

“I say we do this,” Eddie Valentin, owner of Friend’s Tavern, said.

“We do this, not only because we’re turning a black tar, ugly space into something beautiful for the future and for the children of the neighborhood but at the same time, we’re going to be uniting a lot of people who are coming for different concerts, who are coming for the hotels, and who’s coming for a better Flushing Meadow Park.”

Supporters of Metropolitan Park: ‘We deserve it here’

Around a dozen groups look to earn one of three downstate New York casino licenses, which by themselves are valuable enough, as shown by some experts believing casinos in the New York City area could rival the success of Las Vegas. Those licenses become even more lucrative, considering they could open the door to offer online casinos in NY once lawmakers legalize iGaming.

Cohen has put together an intriguing proposal in Metropolitan Park that would integrate a number of amenities, including a Hard Rock-branded casino.

Among the horde of civic leaders and business owners who showed up to support the project were parishioners of the First Baptist Church of Corona, who emphasized that Metropolitan Park would create job opportunities and entertainment that are invaluable to the Queens area.

“As a black man inside of East Elmhurst, New York, especially in Queens,” Dwight Young told the New York Post, “we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to get a lot of jobs and build generational wealth inside our community.”

Added his mom, Valerie:

“We deserve it here. With everything changing, our community is changing — people need jobs. We need whatever we can to generate sustainability. We deserve it.”

Cohen dialing up pressure on Ramos as senator nears decision

The rally comes on the heels of several tactics taken by Cohen’s team to garner community and legislative support for Metropolitan Park.

Recently, the Mets owner’s group tweaked their strategy by launching a nine-month campaign effort that included sending out mailers around the Queens area in hopes of gaining enough backing that Ramos would feel compelled to jump on board.

Meanwhile, just last week, a member of Cohen’s asset management firm was spotted spending time with several lawmakers in Albany, likely in the hopes of gaining legislative support for land-use easement that is key to making Metropolitan Park become a reality.

That remains crucial for the project. And Ramos is key to making it happen. She remains on the fence about supporting park alienation legislation, however, with a decision to potentially come within the next month.

As for the rally, Ramos told the New York Post: “Steve Cohen is doing his job trying to win support for his casino bid, and I’m doing mine in Albany representing my constituents.”

Photo by Mark Lennihan / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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