New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has released his grand plan for redeveloping the 50 acres of parking lots that surround Citi Field, officially unveiling a vision for “Metropolitan Park” that includes a casino, hotel, bars, restaurants, a live-music venue, 20 acres of public parkland, and more.
You can see above the ambitious $8 billion redevelopment plan Cohen and his “Queens Future” partners have cooked up for the vast parking lots—and you can also see the footprint of the future stadium of New York City FC, right across the street from Cohen’s baseball stadium.
Cohen’s Metropolitan Park proposal is wholly separate from the NYCFC soccer stadium portion of Willets Point redevelopment, which recently entered New York City’s public land use review and approval process.
Yet the two projects do remain intertwined in a few key ways, chief among them through the ongoing negotiations between NYCFC and Cohen over match day use of the parking lots that Cohen now plans to redevelop.
NYCFC would like for attendees of its future Willets Point stadium to be able to park in Cohen’s lots, while the billionaire Citi Field owner has and reportedly continues to “play hardball” in talks to share his parking with the soccer stadium, seemingly in an attempt to gain leverage on behalf of his own casino-centric construction plans.
New York City zoning requirements stipulate that 1,000 parking spots be available for NYCFC match days based on the Queens stadium’s 25,000-person capacity. While the recent start of the ULURP review process brought with it an “Alternative Transportation Scenario” that proposes parking workarounds if Citi Field’s lots are unavailable, the Mets and NYCFC are said to still be trying to strike some sort of agreement.
The City quotes a spokesman for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, development partners with NYCFC in the Willets Point Phase II project, who said in part “EDC remains in close contact with the Mets and NYCFC as they come to an agreement on the parking plan…and look forward to updating the community when finalized.”
This initial overhead rendering of the planned Metropolitan Park development does include three “parking structures” sprinkled across the reimagined parking lots, labeled with “E”s in the above illustration. They’re to be topped with solar panels (hence the “Green” part of that New Green Willets LLC Cohen and company also operate) and at first glance seem to represent a dramatic reduction in available parking in the area, though it’s also not clear the exact number of parking spots that would be available once the new solar panel-topped structures are built.
Plans to create a casino, live venue, hotel, and acres of new parkland directly adjacent to not one, not two, but three existing pro sports venues would also seem to present the potential for some public transit-related nightmares, given the aging and often shaky infrastructure of the New York City subway system.
The announcement of Steve Cohen’s Metropolitan Park also promises to include an “accessible and renovated mass transit station,” so that could have an effect on NYCFC stadium attendees who will be relying on the nearby and potentially soon-to-be-renovated Willets Point 7 train station.
All these new amenities plus the thousands of units of affordable housing to be built in the area could mean far bigger crowds descending on the neighborhood at certain times. Talks with Queens Community Board 7 leading up to the NYCFC project entering ULURP already made clear that soccer matches and Mets games wouldn’t be scheduled to overlap—how would the scheduling of events be impacted by Steve Cohen’s planned entertainment additions to the area?
More importantly, will this entire big Metropolitan Park development, solar panel-topped parking structures and renovated subway stations and casino and all else, actually get built? Steve Cohen and his parking lot plans still face some huge hurdles, or as the New York Post put it in very New York Post terms, “the fate of Metropolitan Park is still about as secure as a Mets late-inning lead.”
The political support needed to “alienate” the parkland Cohen wants to build on still has not arrived, with today’s big Metropolitan Park announcement noticeably not coming with quotes of support from any of the big influential local politicians who represent the area near Citi Field—State Senator Jessica Ramos, or City Councilmember Francisco Moya, for two examples.
There’s also the matter of the downstate casino license that would need to be awarded to Steve Cohen and his Hard Rock collaborators. There’s tons of competition for a precious New York City casino license and it’s unclear if Cohen will beat out his other deep-pocketed gambling industry aspirants.
Cohen’s vision for revitalizing the Citi Field parking lots is now clearer, but there’s no guarantee all pieces of the puzzle will come together for the $8 billion project. If it does, it also appears to be a ways off, as The Outfield pointed out a projected 2030 build date for Cohen’s project was included in the NYCFC stadium-related draft environmental impact statement released upon that project entering ULURP.