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Steve Cohen’s New York City casino team will continue to forge ahead after setback

In a single announcement, state Sen. Jessica Ramos delivered a blow today to one of America’s wealthiest men as he feverishly tries to expand his New York City footprint.

But Steve Cohen, billionaire owner of the Mets, is not done yet.

The sprawling platoon that makes up Cohen’s team showed no intention of giving up after the progressive state lawmaker declared her opposition to his plans to build a casino at Citi Field. Anyone paying attention to Ramos’ statements in recent months would have surmised she was headed in this direction and prepared for it.

“While we respect Senator Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” Karl Rickett, a spokesperson for Cohen’s Metropolitan Park project, said in a statement.

“As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions, and the local community we are confident that we have the best project in the best location,” Rickett added. “We have over a year and multiple pathways to secure the required approvals. Our team remains committed to bringing Metropolitan Park to life.”

Rickett also pointed out that gaming is “the only viable economic engine to make the 23,000 jobs, $8 billion investment and substantial community benefits possible” — a reference to Ramos’ decision to introduce a bill that would free up the land in question for a convention center and hotel, but not a casino.

Cohen needs the state Legislature to alienate the land in question — a parking lot designated as a park in Ramos’ district. Without her support, the bid becomes harder, but not impossible.

His team could lean into support from local businesses and other Queens politicians, and hope it all becomes so overwhelming that the senator changes her mind — a possibility Ramos effectively shot down today.

“No one elected official should be the sole arbiter of this $8 billion investment, so I strongly urge Governor Hochul and the State Senate to explore other avenues to bring the Metropolitan Park proposal to life and ensure that Queens continues to get the money we deserve,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards posted on X today.

Indeed the Mets owner could try to persuade one of Ramos’ colleagues in the Senate to go around her and sponsor a bill to free up the land. But that move — which has little precedent in a state legislature with local member deference on land use matters — would mean going to war with Ramos.

A state Senate source who declined to be named for fear of retribution said Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would be unlikely to move on a bill that would ignore Ramos’ opposition and free up parkland in her district.

Bronx Sen. Nathalia Fernandez’s district includes Bally’s Golf Links at Ferry Point, the site of another casino bid which also requires a parkland bill. She has been floated as a possible workaround for Cohen’s team, were she to introduce a bill that frees up parkland in the Bronx and the site next to Citi Field at once.

But Fernandez nixed that idea today.

“Given her respect to her colleagues in the Legislature, if the senator so chooses to introduce any parkland alienation bill, that bill will not include any area outside of her district,” Justin Sanchez, Fernandez’s chief of staff, told Playbook. “Today’s news does not change that.”

Since New York state announced it would award three casino licenses in the New York City area, Cohen has seized every opportunity he could to win one, hiring an army of lobbyists, sending hundreds of mailers and winning over a posse of local politicians. He has spent lavishly in the process.

But standing in his way from the start has been the progressive senator, who is occasionally floated as a primary challenger to Mayor Eric Adams in 2025. After months of hinting, Ramos finally came out publicly against the project today.

“I think it’s a sad state of affairs when casinos are the premiere economic development idea in our state,” she told reporters today from the Capitol’s second floor. “The business model for casinos, by definition, is to extract wealth from people. … This is not something that would be beneficial.” — Jason Beeferman

Source: Politico 

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