Citi Field casino bid set back by state lawmaker

Sen. Jessica Ramos not ready to introduce critical bill

State Senator Jessica Ramos, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Citi Field (Getty, New York State Senate)

State Senator Jessica Ramos, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Citi Field (Getty, New York State Senate)

When Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry introduced a bill in March to “alienate” a parking lot next to Citi Field, State Sen. Jessica Ramos said she was blindsided. Two months later, she’s returning the favor.

Ramos, who represents the area around the Queens ballpark, will not introduce an alienation bill before the end of the legislative session next month, the New York Post reported. Because the parking lot is technically parkland, alienation by state law is necessary for construction because of all the lease and bond agreements tied to the land, jeopardizing New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s redevelopment proposal — the casino component in particular.

Ramos revealed her decision following a town hall on Friday. She added that 65 percent of the people who spoke during the session opposed a casino next to Citi Field. Opponents are generally more likely to speak at hearings than supporters are.

A representative for Cohen released a statement saying he will continue to seek feedback on what to do with the “50 acres of asphalt” around the ballpark.

When Aubry introduced a bill without a companion bill in the Senate, Ramos voiced her dismay, saying she would need to “have some conversations” and read the bill. For the measure to become law, identical versions need to pass the Assembly and Senate.

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Parkland is not typically associated with parking lots, but in 2017, a joint venture of the Related Companies and the Wilpon family’s Sterling Equities lost an appeal to build a mall on the paved area because of its parkland designation.

Cohen, who bought the Mets from the Wilpons, has not been shy about his desire to redevelop the area around Citi Field, holding visioning sessions with residents. He wants to make the Flushing Bay waterfront more accessible while also bringing Flushing year-round entertainment, including a casino.

The state is poised to issue three downstate gaming licenses this year, though two are already believed to be spoken for. Cohen initially did not say his plans to develop the parking lots were contingent upon winning a casino license, but a spokesperson now says redevelopment would not be economically feasible without one. Aubry’s bill would make the land available for a non-park project only if it includes a casino.

Holden Walter-Warner

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