Op-Ed | Let’s build something great in the Citi Field parking lot

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In my 17 years as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Corona, we have seen so many changes come to pass in our local communities across Corona, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Flushing. Many good, some not so much. We’ve seen opportunities for more growth and economic development come and go, and watched our young people have to leave the area to find jobs and opportunities. 

Yet one thing that has not changed is that the area around Citi Field has remained an empty eyesore.

Now, we have a chance to change that.

Since Steve Cohen took over the Mets just over two years ago, he has been a man of his word,  with action and has demonstrated his commitment to investing in the team, the fans and the local community.

As Steve and his team began shaping a vision for the land around the ballpark over the past six months, they have come to the community with open minds and a willingness to listen to our needs, concerns, and dreams for the area. I personally joined these visioning sessions, and saw their commitment to doing this the right way and hearing from the Mets’ local neighbors and community members before laying out their plans. And what we have emphatically told them is that it is time to build something great, that reflects the community, and connects and serves our neighborhoods. 

This is an opportunity for new dedicated green space, including community athletic fields, bike paths, and access to the waterfront. It’s an opportunity to elevate and celebrate the Queens spirit, with more local restaurants and vendors, a live music venue, and space for community groups and local artists. And it is an opportunity for real investment in local infrastructure, to connect neighborhoods and provide greater transportation options for residents. 

Above all, though, this is our opportunity to bring thousands of new, good-paying local jobs to the area. When I was at the community visioning sessions, I heard again and again how jobs for local residents and support for locally owned businesses were what people wanted most from any new project. Like much of the city, we are still working our way back to normal from the depths of the pandemic. And now more than ever we need to foster growth and help our neighbors find good jobs right in our own communities. 

I know that some of our neighbors have questions about bringing a casino to the area. But we know that these new casinos are going to be built somewhere in the city. Why not bring those much needed jobs and spending to Queens? If any of our hopes for this empty asphalt are going to be realized, then we need something that draws people to the area every day of the year, and can be the driving force that makes all of these other community amenities realistic. 

I have been heartened that Steve Cohen and his team have put serving the community at the core of their vision for the area. We may not get everything that we want, but I hope we can find a way to get to yes, and come together to deliver on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and build something we can all be proud of.