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New York Mets' Owner Wants Casino, Other Development, at Citi Field in Queens

Tue January 03, 2023 - Northeast Edition #2
Ballpark Digest

In his quest for a Citi Field casino and associated development, New York Mets owner Steve Cohen will hold a "visioning session" Jan. 7 at the Queens ballpark to pitch a plan and receive feedback from residents.

Cohen has long seen additional development as inevitable for the home of Major League Baseball's Mets, and a new Citi Field casino is part of that vision, something Ballpark Digest first reported last summer.

Cohen did not publicly discuss Citi Field development when bidding to purchase the Mets in 2020; at the time it was the Alex Rodriguez/Jennifer Lopez investor group that raised the prospect of some sort of development to unlock hidden value with the team and the stadium.

Since buying the team, though, Cohen has put money into lobbying city and state officials to land one of the expected three casino licenses in New York City. Even by Big Apple standards, development in the Citi Field parking lot and Willets Point will be complicated, due to its designation as parkland — a status invoked in other efforts to develop in the area, as the original Shea Stadium site was carved out of Flushing Meadow-Corona Park land in the 1960s.

So, with the state Gaming Commission expected to issue New York City licenses this year, Cohen wants to be in line to take advantage of the situation, Ballpark Digest reported Dec. 19.

Some development in the Citi Field area has already gotten under way, as New York Mayor Eric Adams announced a new privately financed NYCFC Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium and affordable housing project near the soccer facility.

Besides that sports stadium, the Willets Point development plan calls for 2,500 new affordable homes — the largest affordable, new construction housing project in New York City in 40 years — to be constructed on an accelerated timeline.

Turning 50 Acres of Asphalt into Fan Destination

In a news release announcing the Jan. 7 listening session, Cohen hailed the Citi Field development as a way to bring new life to 50 acres of asphalt that are unused most of the year.

"For months, we have been listening to the local community who keeps telling us there is more they want from the area," he said. "Everyone agrees that the status quo isn't acceptable. We are committed to putting forward a vision for the area that will create a shared space that people not only want to come to and enjoy, but can be proud of."

Cohen added, "Entertainment is the economic engine that will make this area a destination every single day of the year, regardless of the weather or if it's baseball season."

In the release, he explained that creating new developments, such as public parks, and an entertainment destination featuring live music, restaurants, and bars near Citi Field will bring in thousands of construction jobs paying good wages for several years.

"We are committed to hiring local, supporting minority and women owned businesses, and providing on-going workforce training programs," Cohen noted.

Mets' New VP to Focus On Mass Transit to Ballpark

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Mets' owner also announced Dec. 19 that the club hired Lawrence J. "LJ" Nassivera as its vice president of transportation strategies, a role that will allow him to oversee the development of transportation solutions designed to improve mobility, efficiency and safety at Citi Field, focusing on increasing mass transit usage.

With the Mets looking to scale back parking at Citi Field to develop more of the stadium's surrounding property, Nassivera's skills will likely be useful.

He joins the team from Arup, a leading global planning and engineering firm, where he delivered and led multi-disciplinary planning & engineering projects with partner agencies, including the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New York City Council.

"LJ's connection to New York extends well beyond his knowledge of the city's transportation systems," Mets President Sandy Alderson said shortly before Christmas. "He also understands the Mets and our fans. LJ and his team will work to make a trip to Citi Field much more seamless."

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