New York Mets Owner Steve Cohen’s Casino Bid Conflicts with Soccer Parking Plans

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Billionaire hedge fund manager and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is stalling on a deal with the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) over parking rights for their proposed new stadium in the borough of Queens.

Cohen owns Citi Field, a stadium which is directly opposite the planned site for the Willet’s Point soccer stadium. An investigative report from local news outlet The City cites “multiple people familiar with the negotiations” who say that Cohen is playing hardball with the parking rights in “hopes of getting city clearance to build his casino.”

Queens Development

NYCFC is partnering with Queens Development Corporation on the planned Willet’s Point stadium. It will be a close neighbor of Cohen’s Citi Field when completed.

Part of the plans included a deal on the parking issue between Cohen’s Mets and NYCFC.

The two stadiums would agree to share or distribute parking between game days.

NYCFC currently play home games at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. With an agreement already set in place for that, it seemed a formality Cohen would sign.

On November 22, the NY Post reported that he was positive about the stadium. “They [Cohen’s team] view the stadium plan as a big selling point for the casino,” said a City Hall insider.

“Anything that shows the state that more people will be coming to the Willets Point area will only help the casino plan.”

Since then, though, the race for one of three expected casino licenses in New York has been heating up. Cohen’s casino plan has also been bogged down by city parkland regulations.

Cohen also owns lots of parking lots in the area that he wants to build his casino on, as well as the parking spaces being negotiated with NYCFC.

They are, however, officially designated at the moment as parkland by the city. So getting them rezoned for a casino adds an extra hurdle to the development process.

Related: The best New York online casinos, as reviewed by our experts

Related Companies

Cohen also has several other reasons to oppose the Willet’s Point stadium plan.

Investment firm Related Companies, which is partly financing the project, is also a big backer of Wynn Resorts’ competing casino plan.  

The combined Queens Development Corporation aims to build 2,500 affordable housing units and a 650-capacity school on or near to the stadium. Those are plans that might fuel community opposition to a casino.

Then there’s the matter of the Mets’ crosstown baseball rivals, the New York Yankees. The Yankees actually own a $690 million stake in NYCFC.

Ultimately, city officials told The City that the Willet’s Point stadium plan should be able to go ahead even without an extra parking agreement.

Meanwhile, Cohen’s casino project remains an outside bet for an upcoming New York state gaming license.

Three licenses are up-for-grabs, but two of them are expected to be grandfathered in for existing “racino” venues – Genting’s Resorts World New York in Queens being one of those. A second legal casino resort in the same NYC borough might be a stretch too far for lawmakers, who are only looking to legalize three in the downstate area.

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