Watch CBS News

Parkland emerges as counterproposal to Mets owner's plan for casino at Citi Field site

Debate over proposed casino at Citi Field site heats up
Debate over proposed casino at Citi Field site heats up 02:46

NEW YORK -- Flushing community groups are uniting over a shared vision: 65 acres of parkland they are calling Phoenix Meadows.

The idea comes as a counterproposal to Metropolitan Park, the casino and entertainment complex proposed by billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen.

The Willets Point location includes Citi Field's parking lot, a space enclosed by major thruways near LaGuardia Airport. The area is designated public parkland, though it has not been used as such. Advocates for Phoenix Meadows say the space can be converted by moving parking underground.

Aligned under the name FED UP – Flushing for Equitable Development and Urban Planning — their diverse coalition includes advocacy groups with a range of interests.

"Imagine if a casino was being proposed for Central Park in Manhattan. None of those people living around the park would allow that," said John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.

"We have moral objections to gambling because of the harm that it has on society," Nabil Ahmed said on behalf of the Muslim Center of New York.

Opponents of the casino also raise concerns over environmental disruption in a flood plain along Flushing Bay.

According to Metropolitan Park representatives, the Hard Rock hotel and casino will come with environmental safeguards. 

In a statement, a spokesperson said in part:

We are proud of the vision for Metropolitan Park, a community-led plan that will invest $8 billion to create 25 acres of new public-park space and athletic fields, deliver 15,000 good-paying jobs and careers, modernize the Mets-Willets Point 7 train station, build a Taste of Queens Food Hall and establish workforce training and community development programs.

Metropolitan Park representatives also cast doubt on the economic viability of parkland alone, but Phoenix Meadows advocates say parks boost local economies and quality of life, while a casino would line the pockets of the wealthy and displace the immigrant working class.

"We have to weigh the pros and cons very carefully," Sen. John Liu said.

He will consider the options along with Sen. Jessica Ramos, who declined to share her preference but said she is committing to an open-door policy for constituents to voice their opinions.

Since the Mets have an 82-year lease on the site, Phoenix Meadows advocates are calling for collaboration.

"We are asking, we are begging Steve Cohen: Please join us. Give back to the community in a more authentic way to support a community vision rather than a profit-making venture that overburdens our neighborhood," Choe said.

While the Phoenix Meadows plan is still in its infancy and seeking financial and legislative backing, supporters call it an invitation for locals to consider what they want for their community.

You can email Elle with Queens story ideas by CLICKING HERE

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.