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Senator Jessica Ramos: Steve Cohen's casino at Citi Field "all but dead"

New York Magazine drops the bombshell that Mets owner's $8 billion "Metropolitan Park" casino won't get Albany approval.

Courtesy Metropolitan Park

The cover story in this week's New York Magazine should be of some interest to those following the New York City FC stadium saga.

The epic article by , titled "New Jackpot City," drops us into the middle of the frenetic endgame for the single downstate New York casino license that will allow a developer to reap unimagined profits "and remake an entire section of the city" in exchange for a $500 million fee and an agreement "to pay tax rates approaching 70 percent."

Up until this morning, the leading candidate was New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, whose Metropolitan Park proposed to turn 50 acres of Citi Field's parking lot "into a top-of-the-line casino and resort, with a Hard Rock Hotel, several restaurants, a concert venue on par with Radio City, a manicured new green space, and more."

In addition, Cohen promised to rebuild the subway station, and underwrite new medical and mental-health centers. His family foundation already "donated $116 million to a local community college for a 'workforce training center,' the largest in the City University of New York system’s history." What's a few billion dollars in giveaways when tens of billions of dollars in profits are on the line?

Hudson River Blue senior editor Andrew Leigh first reported the proposed Metropolitan Park in these pages back in November 2023.

Steve Cohen unveils plan to redevelop Citi Field parking
The Mets owner shared plans for the $8 billion “Metropolitan Park” across from NYCFC’s stadium site, casino included.

But the 50 acres of parking lot is actually on state-owned parkland, a legacy from when the World's Fair was in Flushing. To build his casino, Cohen must first change the status of the land through legislation, and that means getting the approval of State Senator Jessica Ramos. According to New York Magazine, Ramos is "a 38-year-old single mother of two, a lifelong lefty activist born to undocumented Colombian immigrants, and someone who has grappled with developers for years."

In other words, a politician who seems uniquely prepared to handle the brute force of a billionaire former hedge-fund manager who is accustomed to getting his way, and whose company pled guilty to insider trading charges in 2013 and paid a record $1.8 billion in penalties – Cohen himself was barred from supervising hedge funds by the Securities Exchange Commission – can effectively veto the proposal.

And that's exactly what she does, "right here in these lines you’re reading," writes . "Ramos’s mind is now 100 percent made up. She’s making her formal opposition known," Shachtman continues, then goes on to call the project "all but dead."

Shachtman quotes Ramos as saying that her constituents are "hoping to build generational wealth. And I just don’t see how a casino helps us meet that goal. I mean, it’s literally the opposite. It’s the extraction of the very little wealth we have.”

And that, seemingly, is that.

The end of Metropolitan Park won't have a direct effect on the soccer stadium New York City is on track to open in 2027. NYCFC's proposal to build below-market housing, a public school, a police station, and a stadium was resoundingly approved by the New York City Council, and is moving ahead on schedule.

But it's impossible to ignore the tension created by Cohen, who reportedly lobbied against the soccer stadium in May 2023, then held "spirited" dissuasions "about the fate" of the stadium with Mayor Eric Adams a few weeks later.

Report: Mets owner opposes NYCFC stadium, won’t share Citi Field parking
Billionaire Mets owner “does not want a soccer stadium” at Willets Point as he leverages Citi Field parking to attempt to help his casino bid.
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If you think that sounds ominous, you’re right to be concerned.

At the time, Cohen sought to tether his proposed Metropolitan Park to NYCFC's stadium, and capitalize on the goodwill generated by City Football Group's careful consensus-based approach to getting the approval of local politicians and community groups.

In order to meet the planning guidelines for the stadium, New York City needed to account for a minimum number of parking spaces. Rather than build a costly parking lot under the stadium, NYCFC proposed to use the parking lot at Citi Field. Last December, Community Board 7 provided key approval of the stadium "contingent on the eventual finalization of an agreement with the New York Mets for NYCFC stadium attendees to use the parking lots that surround Citi Field," Leigh reported in HRB.

In April, That agreement was completed and signed "by all parties," according to Chris Campbell of The Outfield.

That agreement took away Cohen's ability to leverage any further control over New York City's stadium.

And today's article in New York Magazine ends any hope Cohen had of building a casino in Queens.

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Update: Senator Ramos issued the following statement on X at 8:45 am ET. In it she states that she will support a proposal to turn the parkland into a hotel, convention center, and public space, but she will oppose a casino.