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Mets Owner Steve Cohen Will Build You a Cute Little Park If You Just Let Him Have His Gigantic Casino

One simple trick to turn a parking lot into a massive parking garage (with some green space and oh yeah, a casino nearby).

Steve Cohen’s vision (Hell Gate)

No one likes a parking lot. 

That's the starting point for the conversation that Mets owner Steve Cohen has had with Queens residents over the past year, during his astroturfed "community visioning" sessions on what to do with the barren 50 acres of asphalt sitting to the west of Citi Field, where Mets fans currently park their vehicles. 

Instead of a parking lot, his reps asked in those meetings, what would Queens residents rather have—green space? A concert venue? A food hall? Local businesses?

A gaming facility?

A renovated subway station?

Excuse me, you might be asking, what was that? Yeah, a brand new subway station, Cohen's people pitched that. Oh, you mean before that? The thing in very, very tiny font? The thing that Cohen's representatives conspicuously denied for several months as being the sole purpose of this whole development, despite a whole lot of reporting that they were lobbying for a casino

On Tuesday, Cohen finally officially announced what has been obvious for months—that he was partnering with Hard Rock to try to build a casino in Flushing. 

It's not really about a casino at all, insists Cohen's website on the development project, which has been dubbed "Metropolitan Park." The casino, or "casino gaming and sportsbook," is almost beside the point, because a whole 20 acres (out of 50) will be turned into public green space. "LET'S TURN A PARKING LOT INTO A PARK," the website blares. That park, however, will be surrounded by the new casino and hotel, along with some massive parking garages, meant to make up for the loss of all those parking spots. 

Today truly marks the end of the initial part of this whole charade, one in which Cohen has feebly hidden his true aim—to build a casino. He's tried to bury that fact under an avalanche of community benefits, but the truth is that with no casino, he ain't doing shit. 

So what're the chances that Cohen will get his casino? The odds are long and getting longer. 

While today marks the beginning of a City process that would let him rezone the land for gaming uses, the real arbiter of what happens to the land is the state, and specifically the state's park alienation rules, which mandate that the state legislature sign off before any parkland is forfeited for non-park uses (and yes, technically a parking lot for a park serves a park, which means it's parkland). This is what stopped the prior Mets owners from turning the parking lot into a mall, and Cohen knows that a casino is also not a park—so he needs Queens politicians to sign off. 

Specifically, he needs three people to get on board, local representatives whose support would give cover for the rest of the state legislature and City Council to go along with Cohen's plan. One is already on board—State Assemblymember Jeff Aubrey, who's already pushing the project and has introduced a bill in the state assembly that would allow the parkland to be alienated. Then there's State Senator Jessica Ramos, who has not signed on to that bill (more on her in a second). The third is City Councilmember Francisco Moya, who is currently at loggerheads with Cohen over, appropriately enough, parking

Ramos, who's reportedly eyeing City Hall, has to date been noncommittal on the project. Cohen was the biggest donor to Mayor Eric Adams during his 2021 campaign, and Ramos might soon be squaring off against Cohen's money in a 2025 showdown.

In a statement, Ramos told Hell Gate that she would be “hosting another town hall on this proposal at the end of the month," and that "it’s important that my neighbors look carefully at the details and we’ll continue together with our process.”

As for Corona Councilmember Francisco Moya, his seemingly sole focus in City government has been the building of a soccer stadium in Willets Point, directly to the east of Citi Field. But that stadium would need to use the Mets's parking lot—which Cohen is now blocking unless the City Council gets on board with legislation that would direct Albany to act on the parkland alienation bill, helping his chances for success there. Moya is tight with Adams, however, and the mayor is mediating the relationship between the two to smooth things over. But even then, the parking battle remains unresolved. 

The fact that Cohen is renting land that he can't legally build a casino on is a massive hurdle—one which he needs to clear by the time the state finally gets around to handing out its three new downstate casino licenses, most likely around 2026

You can see why Cohen is acting so expeditiously, because unlike other proposals that merely expand on existing casinos, Cohen's strip of land has some huge roadblocks attached to it. That's why he's spending millions lobbying for the casino

A blighted parking lot should absolutely become something else for the community. But everyone knows that baseball's richest owner only wants one thing, and it's a casino to fund those changes and line his own pockets. The rest is just graphic design. 

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