Mets owner Steven Cohen has thrown millions of dollars into lobbying for building a New York casino on public parkland.
Through a multi-million dollar campaign, Cohen has tried to influence the city and the state to let him make his dream a reality. He would like to build the casino on a 50-acre city-owned parking lot adjacent to Citi Field, legally disclosed as public parkland.
But a growing coalition of immigrant-led communities opposes the casino and is determined to stop Cohen’s plan. So far, there has been no information on when the project will be approved.
New York casino targeting Asian community
According to civic and environmental groups opposing a casino, the project would cause ecological issues for communities. The group worries about increased flooding and car traffic in an area already needing public green space.
They are primarily concerned that the newly built casino would target vulnerable immigrants when building its customer base. According to a DocumentedNY article, Sarah Ahn, an organizer with the Fed Up Coalition, a group opposed to the casino, said:
“A casino in Citi Field is surrounded by immigrant communities and Cohen and his team are specifically targeting our communities like Flushing, a heavily Asian community. He is targeting the Asian community who will be spending the money at the casino and we know this means they will be losing their hard-earned money.”
As DocumentedNY states, the Asian CARES research report found that casinos target their advertising toward Asian communities and their immigrant population. Due to poverty and social isolation, Asian community members are often the most vulnerable groups. Asian CARES (Center for Addressing Research, Education and Services) is a coalition of ethnic-based community-based organizations in the Boston region.
Currently, Resorts World Casino has Chinese language advertisements all over Queens. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, in Connecticut, both have a large Asian customer base. What these companies have in common are Asian marketing departments.
Cohen hires outreach teams to win over the public
Cohen is very persistent and determined to win one of the three downstate gambling licenses. He hosted an extravagant community session at Citi Field in January to help him shape the future of the stadium’s 50-acre parking lot.
The event was one of 15 community workshops he organized to win over the public to support his idea. He hired outreach teams, polling 600 residents about the site’s future. According to his poll, 78% of residents were supportive of a plan that would include:
- Live music
- Sporting facilities
- Waterfront access
- Public transportation improvements
The new casino project must have the governor’s approval
The site initially served as a parking lot for World’s Fair guests. It has remained a parking lot all this time.
In 2008, Mets tried to build a mall on the parking, but the attempt was unsuccessful. The state courts ruled that the Mets could not change the land without asking for approval.
To avoid the same scenario, Cohen’ hired a group, New Green Willets, which consists of eight lobbying firms to help influence city and state officials. Also among Cohen’s lobbying firms is Hollis Public Affairs, with two prominent lobbyists:
- Julissa Ferreras-Copeland
- Tarik Coles
The three key elected officials essential for Cohen to win over are:
- Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry
- Sen. Jessica Ramos
- NYC Council Member Francisco Moya
In March, Aubry introduced legislation allowing Cohen to lease the land for his casino project. But for the bill to become law, Ramos would have to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Ramos had already expressed opposition to Cohen’s purchase of the franchise due to his suspicious past.
Whether the senator will change her mind and support the plan remains to be seen.