Bally’s Bronx Casino Proposal at Risk Amid Political Hurdles and Parkland Status

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The future of Bally’s casino proposal at the Bronx’s Ferry Point is teetering on the brink of uncertainty, echoing a similar fate to a situation that unfolded in Queens. The bid to transform the reputable Ferry Point golf course into a glitzy gaming Mecca is poised to falter, hampered by scant political backing and the hurdle of stripping the location of its current parkland status.

Just last year, Bally’s took up the lease to the location, once known as Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx. The intent was to introduce a captivating casino hotel to the site. A stumbling block, however, stems from the fact that the tract of land is presently designated as parkland. To shift this classification, suitable legislation is required, an endeavor that seems increasingly dubious given the current political landscape.

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Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, a democrat from the Bronx who hails from the district where Ferry Point is located, has already stated publically that he has no plans to introduce any such legislation. He instead expressed his attentiveness to the thoughts and apprehensions of local residents before a decision is made. He has not yet indicated any intent to move towards parkland alienation.

In an attempt to spur the conversation around the contentious issue of parkland alienation, another democrat in the Assembly, Gary Pretlow of Mount Vernon, introduced a bill on Tuesday. The bill calls for a reshaping of the “parkland in Ferry Point Park” to pave the way for a ostentatious “gaming facility”. Should this bill see the light of execution, Bally’s would have a substantial grace period of 15 years to erect its casino hotel. Should the plan fall through, the parkland classification would reassuringly be reinstated.

The struggle to introduce casino facilities into areas classified as parklands is far from an isolated scenario. In fact, this is where echoes of a Queens narrative can be felt. State Senator Jessica Ramos, democrat of Queens, made her intentions clear earlier this week. She declared that she would not advocate for parkland alienation legislation in Willets Point, thereby dimming the ambitions of New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International to debut a casino hotel in the locale. Without the necessary legislative support, gaming entities and real estate developers may find it near impossible to compete for the remaining three coveted downstate casino licenses.

Bally’s still has a few tricks up its sleeve, albeit not particularly promising. The company could potentially dig around for pieces of land with no attached parkland status within Ferry Point or even begin scouting for an entirely new location. However, considering Bally’s current shaky financial landscape and unfulfilled commitments in Chicago, a growing number of investors are urging the company to cease its pursuit of the New York license in favor of cash conservation.

Time is another pressing issue with the Bronx Casino legislation. Both Benedetto and State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez have indicated that such a legislation isn’t their immediate priority. Furthermore, unless the Governor, Kathy Hochul calls for a special session, new bills need to be introduced before June 6, further straitjacketing the timeline for removing Ferry Point’s parkland classification.

If Bally’s and the Cohen/Hard Rock duo decide to withdraw from the fiercely competitive downstate casino race, it could narrow down the field to nine competitors. Interestingly, a few contenders are not currently grappling with any land use predicaments.