Hobbled but breathing: How Steve Cohen’s casino team will forge ahead

With help from Shawn Ness

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State Sen. Jessica Ramos formally announced her opposition to billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen's casino bid.

RAMOS ROARS: In a single announcement, state Sen. Jessica Ramos delivered a blow today to one of America’s wealthiest men as he feverishly tries to expand his New York City footprint.

But Steve Cohen, billionaire owner of the Mets, is not done yet.

The sprawling platoon that makes up Cohen’s team showed no intention of giving up after the progressive state lawmaker declared her opposition to his plans to build a casino at Citi Field. Anyone paying attention to Ramos’ statements in recent months would have surmised she was headed in this direction and prepared for it.

“While we respect Senator Ramos’s point of view, the state never intended any one person to have the ability to single-handedly stop or approve a gaming project,” Karl Rickett, a spokesperson for Cohen’s Metropolitan Park project, said in a statement.

“As Metropolitan Park enjoys overwhelming support from elected officials, unions, and the local community we are confident that we have the best project in the best location,” Rickett added. “We have over a year and multiple pathways to secure the required approvals. Our team remains committed to bringing Metropolitan Park to life.”

Rickett also pointed out that gaming is “the only viable economic engine to make the 23,000 jobs, $8 billion investment and substantial community benefits possible” — a reference to Ramos’ decision to introduce a bill that would free up the land in question for a convention center and hotel, but not a casino.

Cohen needs the state Legislature to alienate the land in question — a parking lot designated as a park in Ramos’ district. Without her support, the bid becomes harder, but not impossible.

His team could lean into support from local businesses and other Queens politicians, and hope it all becomes so overwhelming that the senator changes her mind — a possibility Ramos effectively shot down today.

“No one elected official should be the sole arbiter of this $8 billion investment, so I strongly urge Governor Hochul and the State Senate to explore other avenues to bring the Metropolitan Park proposal to life and ensure that Queens continues to get the money we deserve,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards posted on X today.

Indeed the Mets owner could try to persuade one of Ramos’ colleagues in the Senate to go around her and sponsor a bill to free up the land. But that move — which has little precedent in a state legislature with local member deference on land use matters — would mean going to war with Ramos.

A state Senate source who declined to be named for fear of retribution said Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would be unlikely to move on a bill that would ignore Ramos’ opposition and free up parkland in her district.

Bronx Sen. Nathalia Fernandez’s district includes Bally’s Golf Links at Ferry Point, the site of another casino bid which also requires a parkland bill. She has been floated as a possible workaround for Cohen’s team, were she to introduce a bill that frees up parkland in the Bronx and the site next to Citi Field at once.

But Fernandez nixed that idea today.

“Given her respect to her colleagues in the Legislature, if the senator so chooses to introduce any parkland alienation bill, that bill will not include any area outside of her district,” Justin Sanchez, Fernandez’s chief of staff, told Playbook. “Today’s news does not change that.”

Since New York state announced it would award three casino licenses in the New York City area, Cohen has seized every opportunity he could to win one, hiring an army of lobbyists, sending hundreds of mailers and winning over a posse of local politicians. He has spent lavishly in the process.

But standing in his way from the start has been the progressive senator, who is occasionally floated as a primary challenger to Mayor Eric Adams in 2025. After months of hinting, Ramos finally came out publicly against the project today.

“I think it’s a sad state of affairs when casinos are the premiere economic development idea in our state,” she told reporters today from the Capitol’s second floor. “The business model for casinos, by definition, is to extract wealth from people. … This is not something that would be beneficial.” — Jason Beeferman

Gov. Kathy Hochul wants social media companies to work with lawmakers to protect children under the age of 18.

HOCHUL PUSHES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA BILL: Cooperate with the state in drafting legislation to protect children under the age of 18, or deal with it — that’s the message Gov. Kathy Hochul is sending to social media magnates.

The push to curtail the use of social media by minors — one of the most high-profile fights left this session in Albany — is pitting tech firms against the Democratic governor. And with few legislative disputes left to settle, Hochul is putting a lot of firepower into this one.

“We are not anti-business, we are anti-harm to our children,” Hochul told reporters Tuesday. “They should see that and work with us on this legislation instead of saying no. So I think we’re making some progress; some of the responsible companies are already taking steps on their own and I commend them.”

The measure is aimed at protecting the mental health of children who view content that the proponents — including the state teachers’ union — argue could be addictive and otherwise troubling for them. It has faced backlash from well-heeled social media giants across the country, including Meta.

But Hochul remains optimistic.

She said part of the legislation being drafted would include a more stringent process for proving that users are older than 18, though she did not clarify what those controls would look like.

“Companies already have to do this for online gaming and tobacco sales,” she said. “You already have to do this, for them to say you can’t do that, I’m not buying it.”

Julie Samuels, president & CEO of Tech:NYC, said the organization is in “productive discussions with lawmakers and community groups about these bills.”

“But this is an extremely complicated task, and we have to be careful to avoid the fate of every other state that has passed similar bills: yearslong delays in getting support to kids, as rushed legislation remains tied up in courts,” Samuels added.  Katelyn Cordero

KENNEDY, STEIN CLAIM BALLOT ACCESS: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein stopped by the Capitol this afternoon to claim she’d soon be dropping off enough petitions at the state Board of Elections to secure a space on New York’s ballot.

“We know from the Democratic primary held a little over a month ago in this state that the bottom has dropped out from the Democratic Party,” Stein said.

The Greens lost their automatic ballot status in 2020, thanks to new rules harming minor parties. They now need to submit 45,000 signatures for a ballot line,

Stein declined to say how many they were actually submitting. “We don’t actually know,” she said. She claimed “the system is so oppressive” that it makes it impossible to count signatures.

Another candidate who submitted New York petitions today: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who gathered more than 135,000 after a collection process that has faced some accusations of misleading signatories. That’s more “than any presidential candidate has ever submitted in the state,” Kennedy asserted in a tweet.

That also appears to be a high for any candidate. The record was previously claimed by Kennedy’s then-brother-in-law Andrew Cuomo, who gathered 100,000 for his upstart 2002 gubernatorial bid. — Bill Mahoney

CHARTER WARS — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is keeping tight control over his newly announced charter revision commission. At a press conference today, his administration said it does not plan to hire any outside staff to assist with the endeavor, which entails cracking open the city’s governing document and suggesting changes that will be put to voters on the November ballot.

The mayor’s break with custom — most mayors have created multiple charter revision commissions — makes the operation more responsive to City Hall’s desires at a time when the creation of the commission is already widely viewed as an ad hoc response to the City Council’s push for more advice and consent over Adams’ appointments.

“You really have to have staff if you are at all serious about it,” John Kaehny, head of government reform group Reinvent Albany, said in an interview. “[The mayor’s commission] lacks any sort of seriousness, and the mayor is really giving ammunition to critics who say it is a fatuous political exercise.”

But speaking to reporters, Adams said that past mayors have spent too much money on charter revisions. “I believe in lean, and quick, and getting stuff done,” he said. “We spend too much money on window dressing. We can do a better job.” — Joe Anuta

— Former state Sen. Todd Kaminsky is utilizing a legal loophole to lobby against environmentalists. (Bloomberg)

— The sun will perfectly set between buildings over the next two days in Manhattan. (Daily News)

An appellate court ruled that the state violated the due process rights of opioid companies, which could mean New York would have to refund millions of dollars. (Times Union)

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