Queens Casino Backers Push Ramos to See Things Their Way

Posted on: May 14, 2024, 04:30h. 

Last updated on: May 14, 2024, 04:30h.

Scores of Queens business owners, civic leaders, and residents gathered at State Sen. Jessica Ramos’  (D-Queens) office Monday in an effort to push the legislator to support plans for a new casino in the borough.

Citi Field Casino
New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). Queens casino supporters rallied at her office on Monday. (Image: New York State Legislature)

The gaming venue would be part of the broader $8 billion Metropolitan Park plan pitched by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. He’s partnering with Hard Rock International in hopes of landing one of three downstate casino licenses state regulators are expected to award in late 2025 or in early 2026.

Ramos represents the Citi Field area and has thus far been reluctant to back legislation that would change the parkland designation of Willets Point. Changing that classification is essential because without that alteration, Cohen and Hard Rock might not be able to pursue a casino license. That would be to the dismay of some Queens leaders and residents.

This is a great project and Jessica we’re calling out to you. We love you, but we need your help and without you this cannot go through,” said Aaliyah Rose Scott, of Jackson Heights, as reported by CBS New York.

The rally at Ramos’ office was organized by the Coalition for Queens Advancement.

Ramos Previously Criticized Cohen’s Tactics

While Ramos has been noncommittal regarding whether or not she’ll introduce legislation to remove Willets Point’s parkland status, she says she’s open to dialogue with Queens groups and citizens that both support and object to the gaming venue.

She said Monday that while Cohen is trying to drum-up support for the casino effort, she’s focused on representing her constituents in Albany. Earlier this year, she claimed activists paid by groups backing the Queens casino plan attended several of her town hall meetings in the district. Reportedly, the groups that attended the Monday event at Ramos’ office were not compensated by entities with ties to Cohen.

Last month, Ramos and Queens Future — a group with ties to Cohen — released polls detailing locals’ views of the gaming project. Not surprisingly, the poll commissioned by a Ramos donor indicated negative views on the casino while the Queens Future survey showed strong support for Metropolitan Park.

“We want Metropolitan Park. We want this for the jobs for the young people…we want this for the green space, we want this because we deserve nice things,” said Saeeda Dunston, with Elmcor Youth and Adult Services, according to CBS New York.

Interesting Timing for Queens Casino Rally

The timing of the Monday gathering is interesting on multiple. First, it arrived against the backdrop of clarity that in the case of many of the groups vying for New York City-area casino permits, there are no backup plans. That’s true of Cohen and Hard Rock. Should Metropolitan Park not procure a casino permit, the project won’t come to fruition and Willets Point will likely remain an “asphalt jungle” for years to come.

Second, the possibility of surprises in the New York casino competition could be increasing as industry observers note ethics concerns could hamper bids by Genting and MGM Resorts International. Those operators run Empire City in Yonkers (MGM) and Resorts World New York in Queens (Genting).

That’s relevant because when New York policymakers approved legislation to allow for three gaming venues in the downstate region, it was widely believed Empire City and Resorts World New York were essentially grandfathered into two of those permits.