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CM Moya announces support for massive Metropolitan Park proposal near Citi Field

Mar. 28, 2024 By Bill Parry

Council Member Francisco Moya announced his support for Metropolitan Park, a proposal put forward by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International that calls for the construction of an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex on the parking lot just west of Citi Field.

In a lengthy statement released on Thursday afternoon, Moya said that when he was first approached about the project, his main consideration was ensuring that it would meet the needs of his constituents and provide a major boost to the local economy.

“While we faced real obstacles and challenges in our initial discussions, I was clear that Metropolitan Park would need to fulfill several specific criteria to earn my support,” Moya said.

His list included 100% union jobs, both in construction and operation; a commitment to hiring MWBE firms and local residents; real and tangible partnerships with local community organizations; and the future negotiation of a Community Benefits Agreement with community stakeholders.

“I’m happy to report that over the past six months, Mr. Cohen and Hard Rock International have worked to address all of these requirements,” Moya said. “Beyond my own dialogue with Mr. Cohen, I have also spoken extensively with local community leaders and residents. We agree that Mr. Cohen’s community-informed vision of a sports, entertainment and recreational destination, including new passive and active open spaces, an entertainment venue, gaming facility, and hotel will be a positive and transformative economic boon for our community and city.”

Cohen and his Queens Future team have conducted extensive community outreach over the past year including private meetings and visioning sessions at Citi Field.

“We are proud to partner with Council Member Moya on Metropolitan Park and look forward to working closely with him as we transform this area into a space that both the fans and the community can be proud of,” a spokesperson for Metropolitan Park said following Moya’s announcement, which included comments from community leaders who took part in the public outreach.

Rev. Patrick Young, pastor of the First Baptist Church of East Elmhurst, mentioned Metropolitan Park rising near the Willets Point affordable housing project on the old Iron Triangle just east of Citi Field.

“For too long, Queens and our neighborhoods have missed out on opportunities for jobs, housing, and entertainment,” said Rev. Young said. “Together, Metropolitan Park and the Willets Point plan will change that by creating thousands of good-paying union jobs, unprecedented amounts of affordable housing, and new parks for the community to enjoy.”

A rendering of the development plan courtesy of Queens Future

Mike Prohaska, the business manager of Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79, agreed.

“Unionized construction is one of the best economic opportunities and middle-class career pathways available to many underserved communities in our city, including formerly incarcerated individuals, immigrants, people of color, and others from low-income neighborhoods,” Prohaska said. “And major construction projects like Queens Future can provide these communities with good wages, health coverage, and stable, predictable work.”

Metropolitan Park is contingent on the group receiving one of the three downstate gaming licenses from New York State in the next year or two. The plan is also subject to getting the approval of legislators in Albany since it involves the development of public land.  Part of the process to pass the parkland legislation in Albany requires a home rule message from the municipality allowing them to pass it and Moya is prepared to carry that bill in the council.

“I am committed to advancing a New York City Council home rule message for the State to authorize the City of New York to seize this opportunity, by permitting additional uses on this land to facilitate the sports, entertainment, and recreational park,” Moya said.

“Additionally, to ensure the success of this project, I am committing to advancing any and all other required actions, including any zoning, land use and Gaming Commission required approvals.”

He added that the redevelopment of the parking lots will include at least twenty acres of open space and recreation fields and an entertainment district including an indoor live music venue, hotel, bars, restaurants, and community space. A casino gaming facility would also be permitted as an element of the project subject to licensure by the New York State Gaming Commission.

“Combined, these will provide the economic engine to drive people to the area year-round and create a world-class fan experience for the millions who come to Citi Field, the USTA Tennis Center, and all those who will soon be coming to cheer on the NYCFC,” Moya said. “If we fail to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we ensure that the area around Citi Field remains underutilized parking lots for the foreseeable future; and we permanently stymie the future growth potential of Queens. Let’s not allow that to happen.”

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