Queens Councilman Moya Supports Cohen Casino Plan, But Ramos Still Holding Out

Posted on: March 29, 2024, 03:26h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2024, 03:26h.

Queens Councilman Francisco Moya (D- 21st Council District) said Thursday he supports Steve Cohen’s vision to the transform the Willets Point area into a sprawling, $8 billion entertainment complex including a casino hotel.

Queens Councilman Francisco Moya (D- 21st Council District). He supports a plan to bring a casino to the district. (Image: NYC Council)

Moya, whose district includes Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, LeFrak City, and Willets Point, said the Queens casino plan is in the “best interest” of the borough and the city. However, New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, the Democrat representing the Citi Field area, remains leery of authoring legislation that would alter Willets Point’s parkland designation.

It’s essential that Ramos support changing that designation. If she doesn’t, the Queens casino effort could be in jeopardy. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the timeline to opening a bidding window for three downstate casino permits has been delayed and that decisions on winning bidders may not emerge until late 2025. It’s believed some of the delays are attributable to zoning issues, including the Willets Point land designation.

Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund boss and owner of the New York Mets, is partnering with Hard Rock International on a project known as Metropolitan Park that would revitalize the area around Citi Field.

Moya Backs Casino, Other Queens Efforts

Moya has long supported efforts to put the Willets Point land to better use. The area, which has been notoriously difficult to develop over the years, today functions as little more than a parking lot for Citi Field.

In addition to the Cohen/Hard Rock casino plan, the councilman is bullish on an effort to build a new stadium nearby for Major League Soccer (MLS) team the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). He believes Metropolitan Park could be a draw to lure more fans to Mets and NYCFC games as well as the USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows — home of the US Open.

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,” he said in a press release. “Let’s not allow that to happen. I look forward to supporting this historic project and making Metropolitan Park a reality.”

New York regulators haven’t commented on the possibility of Queens being home to two casino hotels. Long-running speculation holds that Genting-owned Resorts World New York, which is in Queens, is one of two venues in prime position to capture one of the three downstate casino permits. Last month, Genting revealed a $5 billion expansion for the property in anticipation of converting it to a Las Vegas-style casino.

Ramos Irked by Cohen, Moya Moves

Ramos appeared none too pleased by Moya’s support of the Queens casino plan and the timing of his press release, implying the councilman did so at the behest of Cohen.

“I question the strategy here. This press release, the last minute press conference before my third town hall, the paid canvassers at my first town hall – these are not the open and transparent moves that I would expect from someone claiming to value real, honest community engagement,” Ramos said in a statement provided to the New York Post.

Ramos has held multiple town halls on the casino issue, but her website doesn’t have a date for such an event in March or April.