Queens Pols Push Ramos to Consider Casino Legislation

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Queens politicians and members of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) are pushing State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) to author permitted use legislation that would pave the way for the proposed $8 billion Metropolitan Park plan to be competitive in the New York casino bidding process.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens). Queens lawmakers are pushing her to consider introducing a bill to support a casino effort in the borough. (Image: Spectrum News)

State Rep. Jeff Aubry (D-Queens), one of three signees on a letter to Ramos, introduced a related bill in the New York Assembly last year, but companion legislation is needed to advance the bill. The Willets Point area across from Citi Field — the desired location for Metropolitan Park and the Queens casino — is currently classified as parkland and that designation must be changed through legislation. If Ramos or another Senator doesn’t get on board with that effort, the Queens casino plan could die.

Advancing permitted use legislation will not be the final word on this project. It is only the first step in the open and transparent review process our community deserves,” wrote Aubry, Queens Councilman Francisco Moya (D- 21st Council District) and borough President Donovan Richards (D) in a letter to Ramos. “Our constituents deserve the right to see all the details of the Metropolitan Park project that will be made public when the RFA is submitted so that our constituents can judge for themselves the merits of the project and directly weigh in through public hearings in the CAC.”

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is partnering with Hard Rock International to bring a new gaming venue to Queens.

Time Is of the Essence for Ramos to Back Queens Casino

The letter is the latest effort by supporters of the Queens casino effort to compel Ramos to come around to their way of thinking. Last week, business owners, civic leaders, and residents rallied at her office, pushing the lawmaker to give the borough a shot at being a credible player in the New York casino race.

Ramos, who previously said polling indicates many Queens residents don’t favor the addition of a new gaming venue, is believed to be nearing a decision on whether or not to introduce permitted use legislation. She might have to act fast because after today, there are just eight days left on New York’s 2024 legislative calendar.

Pressure on Ramos could increase if bills proposed by a pair of her Democrat colleagues agues to speed up the New York casino bidding process passes. Should the bidding window open sooner-than-expected and Willets Point still has parkland designation, it’d be a tough lift to advance the Queens casino pitch. If that effort falters, Willets Point is likely to remain no more than a parking lot for decades to come.

“We appreciate that, like us, you have taken a deliberative and thoughtful approach to weighing the benefits of this project, and that you will continue to evaluate its support among your constituents. We have also heard from our shared constituency. The community wants Metropolitan Park,” according to the letter to Ramos.

Queens Casino Pitch Could Use Ramos Boost

Should the aforementioned legislation to accelerate the bidding process become law, consensus indicates that MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Genting’s Resorts World New York in Queens would be prime beneficiaries because those are established venues.

Likewise, there’s talk that Las Vegas Sands, which wants to bring a casino hotel to Nassau Hub in Uniondale, could also be a winner under that scenario. Those elements are likely factored into the lawmakers compelling Ramos to consider backing a bill that’s supportive of Metropolitan Park.

“We believe that Metropolitan Park is an opportunity to transform the underutilized parking lots around Citi Field into a revolutionary sports and entertainment park with extensive publicly accessible open space,” wrote Aubry, Moya, and Richards in the letter. “This would promote neighborhood connectivity and access, enhance the fan experience, increase economic development and tourism, and directly create more than 23,000 good-paying union jobs for area residents.”

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