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Mets’ owner Steve Cohen’s bid for a Queens casino

MEET THE METS… IN ALBANY: Mets owner Steve Cohen is in a race to win the rights to build one of the biggest casinos in the world. But one Queens senator stands in his way.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos, whose district includes the planned Citi Field casino site, has held off on supporting Cohen’s massive bid. Cohen has a problem: The senator’s support is crucial if he wants his casino.

So the billionaire needs to find a way around her, and that starts in Albany.

That’s why Michael Sullivan, Cohen’s chief of staff for his firm, Point72 Asset Management, was spotted by Playbook today walking into the Capitol offices of the two most powerful members of the state Legislature.

Sullivan, flanked by advisers, had meetings with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie around noon.

Neither Sullivan nor his entourage would go on the record to talk about what they were hoping to achieve during their meetings.

But anyone paying attention to Cohen’s dogged and expensive casino bid has the same issue on their mind: Parkland alienation.

The planned location for Cohen’s casino, a parking lot next to Citi Field, is technically city parkland, but the state has jurisdiction over how the land is used. Cohen needs state lawmakers — if not Ramos, then someone else — to back a bill to change the lot’s parkland status and free up the rights for a casino.

Vying for a casino in the New York City area is already challenging enough. There’s nearly a dozen bids competing with each other to win the three licenses in the region that will be awarded by the state’s gaming commission’s specially-appointed board.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. The application fee alone is $1 million, and the license costs $500 million.

Cohen’s parkland problem — and Ramos’s reluctance to solve it — adds a whole other level of difficulty. In the meantime, Cohen has been sending out mailers and polling constituents in hopes to drum up support for the casino plan.

“I’m not a gambler, but I would say I wish them a lot of luck,” Ramos said today of Cohen’s team. “I’ve questioned their strategy all along. We have done our best to engage as many constituents in the process that we’ve created, and we’ll see where that goes.”

Playbook then asked Ramos: Do you feel like Cohen’s effort to advance a parkland bill and go around you is not in his bid’s best interest?

She responded: “I guess we’re about to find out. Buckle up.”

Cohen’s crew was also set to meet with Ramos on the plush green couches outside the Senate chambers today, but Sullivan rescheduled. Cohen’s spokespeople declined to comment on today’s Capitol visit. Heastie’s office didn’t respond to Playbook’s questions about the meeting, either.

Stewart-Cousins told Playbook she didn’t have a particular goal for the meeting with Cohen’s staff: “I meet with people all the time, that’s what I do,” she said.

No bill hits the floors of the Assembly or Senate without the leaders’ approval, but if Ramos doesn’t want to introduce a parkland bill, another senator can.

State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, a Bronx Democrat, has been floated as an option. But she doesn’t have any immediate plans to do so.

“It’s an option that just exists. No one’s asked me to do it; I’m not considering it,” Fernandez said of introducing a parkland bill. “It’s something I would definitely want to talk to my colleagues on.” — Jason Beeferman



Source: Politico

Preview Image: Shuttertock