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Mets owner Steve Cohen’s Metropolitan Park plan commits over $1B in community benefits if casino gets green light from state

Feb. 12, 2024 By Bill Parry

Before presenting the details of the $8 billion Metropolitan Park proposal at a town hall meeting at the New York Hall of Science Thursday night, a representative of New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International held a briefing at Terrace on the Park, where they outlined the $1 billion in specific community benefits that are part of the plan to transform 50 acres of parking lot just west of Citi Field into a year-round entertainment complex.

QNS file photo

The project would build a casino and entertainment complex that would include 25 acres of new public park space, the creation of a Taste of Queens Food Hall, a concert venue, the modernization of the Mets-Willets Point 7 train station and the creation of a Community Impact Trust to serve community needs, contingent on the group receiving one of the three downstate gaming licenses from New York State in the next year or so. The plan is also subject to getting the approval of legislators in Albany, since it involves the development of public land.

“We have learned through three years of conversations with the people who live and work in Queens that serving the interests of the communities surrounding Citi Field must be at the center of this project,” Cohen said in a statement following the briefing. “Committing over $1 billion in benefits and transit improvement is critical to achieving a shared vision for the area we can all be proud of.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen took part in several visioning sessions and private meetings with Queens residents to pitch his $8 billion Metropolitan Park plan. QNS file photo

Cohen did not take part in the briefing, which was held prior to state Sen. Jessica Ramos’ public meeting a few blocks away where the public discussed the proposed casino development and an alternative plan. Jim Allen, the chairman of Hard Rock International, was not at the briefing either, but he met with hundreds of Queens business leaders last month.

“Hard Rock at Metropolitan Park is a long-term investment into the people and businesses of Queens,” Allen said in a statement pertaining to the briefing. “Not only will our venue bring people together for memorable shared experiences, but we can create jobs with competitive salaries and benefits and life-long careers adding to the more than 60,000 workforce we employ around the world. We’re excited to bring our unique brand of world-class entertainment — along with jobs and opportunity — to Queens.”

Michael Sullivan, the chief-of-staff of Cohen’s Point 97 asset management group, laid out the eye-popping community benefits, including $320 million to construct, operate and maintain approximately 25 acres of new open space including new athletic fields; $480 million to modernize the Mets-Willets Point transportation hub and make it ADA accessible, with some of the funds also for climate readiness; and $150 million to create a food hall featuring Queens-based food vendor.

Metropolitan Park’s Michael Sullivan lays out the details of more than $1 billion in community benefits and transit improvements for Queens that is contingent on state approval of a gaming license for a proposed casino near Citi Field. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“We’re committed to making sure that we hit the mark here and deliver a project that the community can be proud of, the Mets fans can be proud of and we can be proud of,” Sullivan said, adding that the project would deliver more than 15,000 good-paying jobs and careers.

Photo by Paul Frangipane

The community benefits package, Cohen’s team says, would support responsible gaming and improve youth and senior services, including $10 million for a health clinic in East Elmhurst; $10 million for a youth and senior center in Corona; and $5 million for addiction and mental health services in Flushing. The project has the backing of many local leaders.

Photo by Paul Frangipane

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce is fully behind the Metropolitan Park plan for three reasons — Jobs, jobs and jobs,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “Workers and families across Queens need these construction and long-term jobs and this investment is going to be a major economic shot in the arm for our local community.”

Former council member Costa Constantinides, who is now the CEO of Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, is a staunch advocate of the proposal.

“This area has been an empty blight dividing Queens from itself and missing out on an opportunity for investment,” Constantinides said. “Transforming the parking lot around Citi Field in Metropolitan Park would deliver concrete benefits for communities and families across Queens in the form of good jobs, green space and areas for gaming and entertainment. Now is the time to invest in Queens. This is the plan.”

Cohen and Hard Rock International have made a commitment to minority-and women- owned business enterprise (M/WBE) contracting, local hiring and workforce development initiatives, in addition to a small business lending programming.

“Tackling poverty and changing lives starts with investments into our people and economic opportunities for our community,” Urban Upbound Co-Founder and CEO Bishop Michell Taylor said. “The Metropolitan Park plan does exactly that. These smart investments will create the tools and resources needed to achieve economic mobility and self-sufficiency.”

Hyun T. Lee, the president of the Korean American Association of Queens, who has been an active participant in the visioning sessions, said his members, comprised largely of small business owners, support the project.

“The consensus among those I spoke to is that transforming the 50-acre asphalt land into something substantial is a positive and forward-looking idea,” Lee said. “I am optimistic that, through collective efforts, we can transform the currently vacant asphalt parking lot into something truly remarkable for the benefit of the community.”

Tammy Rose, the owner of Little Friends School Sunnyside and a member of Community Board 3, agreed.

“I’ve invested my life working to grow and improve Queens — starting with accessible child care and youth education,” Rose said. “Frankly, I’m tired of all the false promises and missed opportunities. Metropolitan Park is a serious investment in our communities — helping create jobs, delivering local services and support, and reconnecting communities that have been divided for too long. It’s time we put Queens first.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.

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