Ramos: ‘I Will Not Introduce Legislation’ To Clear Path For Cohen’s Metropolitan Park

Written By Grant Lucas on May 28, 2024
Image of Sen. Jessica Ramos, who will not support legislation to help Metropolitan Park's New York casino plans come to life.

The uphill climb for a Hard Rock casino development near Citi Field just a got a bit steeper for New York Mets billionaire owner Steve Cohen.

The biggest hurdle Cohen faces in making Metropolitan Park in Queens a reality is an easement of land-use restrictions, which can only come about through legislation. The person most likely to introduce such a proposal, however, has finally made her decision.

Sen. Jessica Ramos issued a statement on Monday, throwing a wrench into Cohen’s plans:

“I will not introduce legislation to alienate parkland in Corona for the purposes of a casino.”

Ramos not willing to trade off NY casino for “investment and opportunity”

Late last year, well into rumors swirling that he wanted to develop the expansive asphalt surrounding the Mets stadium into a casino resort, Cohen released more details about Metropolitan Park.

Even then, however, the team knew Ramos represented a key domino in plans to bring the plan to life.

Now, after weeks of uncertainty regarding which direction she was leaning, Ramos made it clear: She will not back parkland alienation legislation to clear the way for the project.

“We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space, and recreation for the whole family,” Ramos said in a statement.

“We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off. I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.”

As a result, Cohen and his team will have to find another avenue to receive one of the three downstate New York casino licenses, which are not only valuable in terms of potential real revenue but could open the door to offer NY online casinos once lawmakers legalize iGaming.

Metropolitan Park team still optimistic for development

It has been no secret what Cohen wants to do to help redevelop the area around Citi Field, which could otherwise be described as an asphalt wasteland.

The $8 billion Metropolitan Park would feature plenty of amenities aside from the casino, including a hotel, live music venue, restaurants, and 20 acres of park space.

“While we respect Senator Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” a Metropolitan Park spokesperson said in a statement.

“As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions, and the local community we are confident that we have the best project in the best location.”

This does not mean the Metropolitan Park dream is completely dashed, of course. Earlier this month, a representative from Cohen’s group was spotted in Albany to meet with two high-ranking lawmakers, perhaps in an attempt to create a backstop that would still help Metropolitan Park become a reality should Ramos decide not to support parkland alienation legislation.

The Metropolitan Park spokesperson noted that the group has “over a year and multiple pathways to secure the required approvals” in order to potentially receive one of the three downstate licenses.

“Our team remains committed to bringing Metropolitan Park to life, with gaming as the only viable economic engine to make the 23,000 jobs, $8 Billion investment and substantial community benefits possible.”

How Cohen could still get parkland alienation

Ramos has reportedly drafted an alternative bill that “strikes a balance,” with “more than double the proposed open green space.” While it would allow for Metropolitan Park to still build a convention center and hotel, it would not allow for a Hard Rock casino.

“Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock would still make a profit, albeit less,” Ramos said, according to the New York Daily News.

The possibility remains for Cohen’s team to find a different lawmakers to introduce land-use easement legislation. But as Ramos represents the area, it would be an irregular move, one that Ramos said would surprise and even offend her.

Photo by Hans Pennink / 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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