Steve Cohen has revealed a site diagram for his proposed CitiField casino which he wants to build on public parkland. It’s misleading in that it looks like it’s mostly “green.” A lot of that green consists of buildings without height detail. His plan calls for only 20 of 55 acres to be developed as traditional parkland. Cohen’s vision would require parkland alienation, a change to the City Map and then a zoning change to something that would accommodate a casino. As of press time, the City is proposing casino siting on any property zoned C4-C8 (commercial) or any M (manufacturing) zone. Public parkland is currently zoned R3-2 (residential) by default.
The FED-UP coalition of Flushing has a counterproposal which would keep all this public parkland open to the public. JPCA supports their proposal because casinos are detrimental to communities for several reasons that we have previously detailed and because developing public parkland for commercial use is a slippery slope that privatizes space that should be considered sacred. We present their proposal at right.
CITI FIELD CASINO BACKGROUND
New Green Willets (NGW)—a firm owned by Steve Cohen, the billionaire owner of the Mets—seeks one of New York State’s 3 casino licenses for publicly-owned parkland adjacent to Citi Field. The project would privatize over 50 acres of public parkland and exploit local communities.
The proposed casino project publicly targets Flushing, selling the project’s profitability on its exploitation of the local Queens communities and Mets fans. The neighborhood impacts of gambling centers are well documented and devastating—they siphon money from local communities while residents, like many in Flushing, are struggling with rent and the soaring cost of living.
PARKLAND ALIENATION: WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
‘Parkland alienation’ means taking away parkland to allow for a different type of land use. The parkland around Citi Field has very specific allowable uses—festivals, events, parking, etc.—that do not include a permanent structure, like a casino. A state bill is required to allow for any new parkland alienation that would enable a permanent structure.
Taking over 50 acres of public parkland is no small thing! Once the land is taken, it sets legal precedent which means that the same kind of land grab could happen elsewhere. If alienated, the land around Citi Field will still be publicly owned and leased to New Green Willets, which means that the group will likely not pay taxes.
WE DESERVE A PUBLIC PARK
The proposed casino takes over 50 acres of publicly owned parkland situated in the middle of multiple environmental justice communities that already face threats of residential and commercial displacement.
Instead of giving away over 50 acres of our public land so that a billionaire can profit, the FED-UP coalition believes that we should improve and invest in the parkland adjacent to Citi Field by building a real community park.
We are calling on local Queens communities to collaborate with us on developing this vision, and on our local elected officials to identify the city, state, and federal funding sources that could enable it.