Queens Councilman Moya Backs Billionaire’s $8bn Willets Point Casino Vision Amidst Opposition and Delays


Francisco Moya, the respected councilman from Queens who represents the 21st district, comprising Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, LeFrak City, and Willets Point, shared his support with an air of conviction last Thursday for Steve Cohen’s ambitious vision for the Willets Point area. Moya, a Democrat, stated his sentiment behind this grand plan— an estimated $8 billion entertainment complex which would include a casino hotel and more, deeming it the best interest of both the borough and the city.

Yet not all shares the same excitement. New York State Senator Jessica Ramos, a fellow Democrat representing the area around Citi Field, expresses her reluctance for approving legislation that would lead to a change in the district’s parkland status. The hesitation of Ramos is crucial. Her hesitance could potentially trouble the future plans for the Queens casino.

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Further complications arise as reports have surfaced indicating delays in opening the bidding window for three downstate casino permits, with decisions not expected to arrive until as late as 2025. Many believe these postponements are owing to variances in zoning, of which includes the issue of the Willets Point land designation.

As for Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund tycoon and proud owner of the New York Mets, he has entered into a partnership with Hard Rock International. Their project, fondly named ‘The Metropolitan Park’, is set to spruce up the area enveloping Citi Field.

Never wavering in his belief, Moya remains steadfast in his support of the better utilization of the Willets Point land. Once a challenging area to develop, it now serves mostly as a parking lot for Citi Field.

Alongside his support for the casino plan fronted by Cohen and Hard Rock, the councilman is also enthusiastic about another plan to erect a new stadium in close proximity for Major League Soccer team New York City Football Club (NYCFC). Teeming with optimism, Moya envisions a transformed Metropolitan Park that could potentially lure a sea of fans to the Mets and NYCFC games.

Moya resonates his optimism, “Failing to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity means possible years of underutilized parking lots around Citi Field, curtailing the future growth potential of Queens. I look forward to supporting this historic project and making Metropolitan Park a reality.”

Meanwhile, New York regulators remain silent on the possibility of Queens housing two casino hotels. Speculation has since been rife that the Genting-owned Resorts World New York in Queens is likely among the handful of venues likely to secure one of the three downstate casino permits.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ramos displayed her dissatisfaction with the support Moya and Cohen were amassing for the Queens casino plan. With clear annoyance, she questioned Moya’s motives and the urgency of his press release, implying that his stance could be influenced by Cohen.

Ramos stated, “I question the strategy here. From the last-minute press conference before my third town hall to the paid canvassers at my first town hall, these moves lack the openness and transparency I would expect from someone who values community engagement.” Despite having held several town halls on the casino issue herself, Ramos’s official website does not list any such event for the months of March or April.