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Steve Cohen, one of the biggest outside spenders on behalf of Eric Adams, wants two things—a Mets championship and a casino. Eric Adams can only really help him with one of those (unless he is secretly a very good middle reliever).
- Founder, S.A.C. Capital Advisors
- Founder, Point72 Asset Management,
- Owner, New York Mets
Steve Cohen did not commit any direct financial crimes related to the insider trading prosecution of the hedge fund that bore his initials and made him a billionaire, SAC Capital Advisors. The firm was ordered to shut down shortly after the company pleaded guilty to securities fraud, paying a record $1.8 billion fine to the federal government in 2013. Cohen walked away generally unscathed, and within a few years, was back to running another hedge fund and also, because why not, buying himself the New York Metropolitans for $2.4 billion dollars. (Cohen himself is worth an estimated $19.8 billion).
Cohen, who grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, was treated as a savior by Mets fans after years of dismal ownership, immediately began spending tons of money on players for the Mets, which almost paid off (and then quickly fell apart). But players weren’t the only thing Cohen was spending money on. Since he bought the Mets, the Greenwich-based billionaire has been spending millions to influence New York City’s political scene.
The biggest beneficiary of Steve Cohen’s largesse? Eric Adams. Cohen gave $1.5 million to a pro-charter schools political action committee called Strong Leadership PAC that spent big to get Adams elected.
Cohen doesn’t just own the Mets. He also holds the lease to what his development team has called “50 acres of asphalt”—the parking lot beside Citi Field, the site of the former Shea Stadium. Cohen wants to turn this space into “Metropolitan Park,” with 20 acres of public green space, a renovated subway station, and oh yeah, a Hard Rock casino.
Why is Cohen vying for one of the three downstate casino licenses? Perhaps because a study estimated gaming revenue in New York City could could reach $5.3 billion each year, meaning the cost of the Mets would be mere pennies to Cohen after a while.
But “Uncle Stevie” as Mets fans affectionately call him, has one huge hurdle to clear: The parking lot is still technically state parkland. To use state parkland for any other use—like say, blackjack tables and slot machines—requires a process called “alienation,” and will require the support of local and state lawmakers. This snag is what stopped the old Mets owners from turning the parking lot into a mall.
In addition to his PAC contributions and the over one million dollars that he’s spending on lobbying City and state officials this year alone, Cohen is seemingly doing his best to garner goodwill by splashing gobs of money all across Queens and the rest of five boroughs (he recently was a “double platinum level sponsor,” of the Democratic politico confab SOMOS).
This past summer, Cohen invited Governor Kathy Hochul up to the owner’s box, but without the support of the mayor, any casino project in city limits is essentially dead in the water. Cohen and Adams are currently haggling over the very same parking lot where the casino could be, and whether a proposed soccer stadium on the other side of Citi Field would be able to use it for parking.
Like a free agent big-name power hitter, if Adams is hoping for another huge check for what might be a bruising 2025 primary, he might consider what “Uncle Stevie” has to say, and play ball.
- What the End of the Case Against Steven Cohen Means | New York Times
- Cohen opens 50 acres’ future for discussion | Queens Chronicle
- Space around Citi Field to be transformed into sports and entertainment park under new plan | NY1
- New York’s big bet: The race to build a New York City casino | NY1
- Will Steve Cohen Strike Out in His Citi Field Casino Bid? | New York Magazine
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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