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Citi-Field Casino Proposal is Latest Battleground Against Entertainment Complexes

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By: Don Driggers

A state lawmaker who represents the communities around the Mets’ Citi Field has temporarily blocked billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen’s plan to build a casino and entertainment complex in the lots next to the ballpark, NY Post reported originally.

Cohen needs legislation approved by the state Legislature in Albany in order to start a commercial venture in the lots around Citi Field.

But Sen. Jessica Ramos told The New York Post on Sunday she would not introduce a bill in the final weeks of the legislative session.

“I had a very productive town hall on Friday which is going to be the first of many conversations I have with my neighbors,” Ramos said. “My neighbors and I are not currently in a place where it would be appropriate to introduce parkland alienation legislation.”

The lots and other property around Citi Field in Willets Point are deemed parkland — designated as part of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park back in 1939.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens) introduced legislation in March that would allow Mets owner Steve Cohen to redevelop the overflow parking lots around the baseball team’s Citi Field into a casino and entertainment complex.

But the measure can’t become law without support from the Senate and of course, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Ramos, as the local senator, has leverage over the designation — an important first phase for Cohen and his New Green Willets LLC to redevelop the property around Citi Field.

The legislative session ends in June. The state casino siting commission has yet to issue any of the three downstate casino licenses.

A rep for Cohen released a statement saying input from Ramos and residents about redevelopment for the site will continue.

“We have been working closely with Senator Ramos from the beginning and her input has been an important part of our approach. We will continue to partner with her and our neighbors in Queens as we incorporate their feedback and have an open dialogue with the community and a transparent process on how best to reimagine the 50 acres of asphalt around Citi Field,” the spokesperson said.

“Based on the input we have received across 15 listening sessions, hundreds of meetings and over 20,000 door-to-door conversations, we believe that both Mets fans and the surrounding community will like what they see when we unveil a vision anchored in new public green space, thousands of new and permanent jobs and entertainment that brings people to the area every single day of the year.”

Charlie Kelly, a Garden City resident, said,  “It’s outrageous that they’re gonna try to put this in the center of Nassau County, and turn what was Stewart Avenue into a Nassau strip — the equivalent of the Vegas Strip.”

Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said, “No one really thinks a casino is the best use for the hub site — they really don’t. I respectfully asked our legislators, who are going to be voting on this, and county and town officials, to ask themselves — whether they would want their legacy to be that they brought a casino into the heart of Nassau County.”

Casinos are facing a backlash all over NY State, from Coney Island to Times Square to Long Island, community members have shown great resistance to opening casinos in their neighborhoods. The proposal to open a casino in the Bronx, near the Trump gold course, thus far has received the least resistance.

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