Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens) filed a bill on March 22 to allow New York City to transform Citi Field's parking lot. It will help Steve Cohen, the Mets' owner, to build a casino on the land.
A Queens Development Group, including the Related Group, Saul Katz, the Wilpons, and previous Mets owners, attempted to upgrade the parking lot in 2017, but a state Appeals Court struck it down. The investors wanted to upgrade a section of Willets Point and build a shopping center inside the parking lot.
What Does the Bill Entail?
The proposed constitutional amendment states that a parking lot must be built for a gaming venue with diverse uses like convention, commercial, hotel, entertainment, community, retail, and recreational. Citi Field was formed in 1939 as a section of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and is classified as parkland.
Even so, the bill requires New York to intervene to isolate it and enable further development. It states that the parkland's legacy will end once it forms agreements and leases with other entities like New Green Willets, LLC, and cited Cohen's lobbying firm.
Senator Jessica Ramos represents the region. She commented on the proposed amendment that New York must get a replacement parkland of at least 20 acres or improve another greenspace that the private developer will pay to alienate Citi Field. Still, the lawmaker claimed the legislation blindsided her since she wanted to introduce a similar constitutional amendment proposal.
Ramos was shocked on Wednesday morning after learning that Aubry had submitted his bill. But, she has to sign jointly-introduced legislation for any park to get alienated. She still needs to read the new bill and will have to discuss it soon.
Cohen's Determination in His Proposed Project
New York City owns the Citi Field parking lot and leased it to the Mets, but Cohen has been determined to renovate it since he bought the team in November 2020 for $2.4 billion.
The investor created visitation sessions with local leaders and residents to understand what would attract Mets supporters and Queens residents to the baseball stadium. Aubry revealed that he had discussed New Green Willets' plans for Citi Field several times.
Francisco Moya (Area City Councilman), Ramos, and Aubry were allowed to place one person each on the six-person advisory board alongside the governor, mayor, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards to review casino construction applications. President Richards commented on the legislation stating that he was pleased to witness the legislative process kicking off. But, community benefits, feedback, and engagement will significantly determine whether a casino proposal in Queens will be approved.
Cohen and other investors spent over $200,000 trying to convince local politicians to support their development plan. Still, they funded the election campaigns of some officials.
Cohen's wife gave the New York Democratic Committee $117,300 in 2022, and Michael Sullivan, New Green Willets' aide, spent about $35,000 on the new local officials. He gave Aubry $9,400, State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), and Ramos $5,000.