Queens Residents Rally for Endorsement of Metropolitan Park Casino Project

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On a chilly Monday afternoon, numerous business proprietors, civic leaders, and concerned residents from Queens mingled outside the office of State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). They brought with them a singular goal: persuading the legislator to endorse a blueprint for a new casino in their borough.

The proposed gaming hotspot finds a place within the grander scheme of Metropolitan Park, a whopping $8 billion project presented by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Cohen is joining forces with Hard Rock International, pinning his hopes on securing one of the three downstate casino licenses slated to be doled out by state regulators either late 2025 or early 2026.

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Having jurisdiction over the Citi Field area where the project is speculated to rise, Ramos has managed to evoke the ire of some constituents for her hesitancy to endorse the legislative changes required to reclassify the parkland status of Willets Point. This reclassification stands as a non-negotiable requirement for Cohen and Hard Rock to entertain their casino dreams.

In Jackson Heights resident Aaliyah Rose Scott’s words, “This is a great project and Jessica, we’re calling out to you. We love you, but we need your help. Without you, this will not materialize.” The rally outside Ramos’ office was anchored by the Coalition for Queens Advancement, a motley mix of local stakeholders rooting for the casino project.

Despite Ramos’s ambiguity regarding her stand on retracting Willets Point’s parkland designation, she assures that she remains open to candid dialogue with those who both echo and oppose the casino proposal. Her words were echoed on Monday when she highlighted her commitment to representing her constituents in Albany, smack in the middle of Cohen’s hustling efforts to garner support for his casino dream.

Ramos has also previously alleged that pro-casino groups, who seemingly compensated activists to attend her town hall meetings, covertly attempted to influence the project’s outcome. However, contrary to this, the groups present at Monday’s rendezvous at Ramos’ office reportedly held no financial ties to Cohen.

Last month, the views of the local populace on the controversial gaming project were illuminated through polls conducted by Ramos and Queens Future, a group Cohen is associated with. The discord was palpable: while a poll commissioned by one of Ramos’s benefactors laid bare unfavorable outlooks on the casino, Queens Future unveiled a resounding applause for the Metropolitan Park project.

Saeeda Dunston, from Elmcor Youth and Adult Services, captured the sentiment succinctly, “We want the Metropolitan Park. We want this for job opportunities for our youth… we want this for the green space, we want this because we deserve nice things.”

The timing of Monday’s assembly brought with it a dash of intrigue. With the revelation that lack of alternative plans plagued numerous groups competing for New York City casino permits, the implications were clear. No casino license for Metropolitan Park could ring the death knell for the project, consigning Willets Point to the dismal future of remaining an “asphalt jungle” for the foreseeable future.

Simultaneously, the New York casino contest could see unexpected twists as industry experts speculate on potential ethics concerns that might potentially besmirch bids by Genting and MGM Resorts International, operators currently running Empire City in Yonkers (MGM) and Resorts World New York (Genting) in the very borough of Queens.