The group’s introduction to the public came as reports surfaced suggesting that Mets owners would capitalize at Willets Point with a new casino to recover losses from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Although it is unlikely a new casino will be constructed, Michael Olmeda, the new coalition’s convener, stressed that any plans for a casino in Corona are not compatible with their financial needs, adding that any suggested financial benefits from the proposal is nothing more than a misconception.
“It will not draw tourist dollars in any significant amount,” Olmeda said. “Instead, it will suck up local dollars that might otherwise be spent at existing recreational facilities and will impoverish some of our citizens in the process.”
Related Companies and Sterling Equities, two development companies owned by the same people who own the Mets and chosen to develop part of Willets Point, released a statement following a New York Post article revealing plans for a “Las Vegas-style casino next to Citi Field,” calling the article a fabrication.
“Our plans for Willets Point do not include an Indian or commercial casino, which is illegal,” said a spokesperson for the companies. “Even if it were legal, it would not be allowed under the environmental process we are undertaking and our agreement with the city prohibits this use.”
While the plans did surface for the possibility of “Indian gaming” two years ago, the spokesperson assured that they are in fact currently investing in Willets Point with quite a different blueprint.
“The $3 billion investment we are making in Willets Point will clean up land that has experienced a century of environmental contamination and will result in a mixed-use community that will create thousands of jobs, affordable housing and significant economic activity for the area,” the spokesperson said.
Unsure if the project is in fact an entirely dead issue, the roomful of newly formed coalition members filed to the front of the Corona senior center’s dining hall to speak in opposition of even the slightest chance for gambling in their neighborhood.
One after another they called for additional affordable housing projects, playgrounds and sports facilities.
Queens resident Patricia Hoetzel, president and founder of Concepto Media Corp., said she has been out in her neighborhood of College Point advocating against the possibility of a casino, and said the general consensus is on her side in the matter.
“They feel that this project would be bad for their business, for their kids and also for people who sometimes like to gamble,” Hoetzel said, in hopes of eliminating even the temptation of gambling from her neighborhood. “We have to make a big noise. We have to tell people we are together against this project, but we also have to not only say it, but show it.”