Editorial | Focus, Mr. Mayor, on the city’s problems — not the Mets

Citi Field Mets Steve Cohen Bill de Blasio
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

We’ve got enough problems in New York right now — a horrific pandemic, a devastated economy, racial injustice, rising shooting rates, even public transit on the brink of a fiscal cliff.

Do you know what’s the least of this city’s troubles? The fate of the New York Mets.

Billionaire Steve Cohen is set to buy the Amazin’s from Fred and Jeff Wilpon for $2.4 billion in a deal that Major League Baseball is set to approve as soon as Friday. This deal had been in the works for the better part of a year, and the change is welcomed by a long-suffering fan base who had grown tired of the mismanagement.

And just when everything seemed to be in order, along comes Mayor Bill de Blasio.

There’s a clause in the lease for the Mets’ Queens home, Citi Field, which empowers the city to deny a “prohibited person” from owning the team — basically, someone who has been convicted of a felony.

Cohen was not convicted of a felony, though the hedge fund he founded once pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and paid $1.8 billion in fines.

Sportswriters nonetheless picked up on the “prohibited person” clause and began speculating if de Blasio could somehow put an abrupt halt to things.

Twice this week, when asked about this at press conferences, the mayor played coy — that the city’s Law Department is reviewing the lease and would make a decision based on the law.

On Wednesday night, after another New York tabloid printed a speculative article claiming that the mayor was actively looking to disrupt the Cohen deal, de Blasio’s spokesperson, Bill Neidhardt, tweeted a response denying most of the report. He did concede, however, that the Law Department is “examining a new lease on incredibly valuable city-owned land.”

It would appear that the city’s looking to cash in on Cohen’s $15 billion wealth as much as any superstar MLB free agent. In these cash-strapped times, in a sense, we don’t blame the city for seeking a rent increase on someone who can afford to pay it.

But de Blasio should come clean about it, rather than just turn this into an attention-grabbing speculative circus. The city has no legal basis to stop the deal — so let the deal get done.

Focus instead, Mr. Mayor, on the bigger problems New York faces. Please!