I am proud to call Queens my home. What makes our borough so vibrant are the unique, tight-knit communities and neighborhoods that have persisted and thrived over the 40 years I have lived here. For my part, I have been proud to work to support and strengthen the Jewish communities of Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills, and Flushing as President of Tomchei Shabbos of Queens.

I want to see our area of Queens continue to grow and flourish, so that our children and our neighbors can find opportunities that keep them rooted in our communities. We need more spaces where community groups can gather, more support for our local small businesses, and more jobs so our families can thrive.

This is why I was so glad to learn that Mets owner Steve Cohen has been seeking input from the community about how we can build something great in the empty asphalt lots around Citi Field. Ever since I have lived in Queens, this area has sat empty and isolated, contributing nothing to our communities or surrounding neighborhoods. It can be so much more. It can be a thriving entertainment hub that brings people to the area all year long, while stitching our neighborhoods together with bike trails, green space, and access to the waterfront.

Cohen and his team have gone above and beyond in making sure this is an opportunity for all of Queens. Having met with Cohen and his team, I have appreciated their dedication to creating a space that we can all be proud of and enjoy. I have also been deeply impressed by the open and inclusive process they have undertaken, to hear from local neighbors, communities, and organizations, and ensure that the project reflects our needs while addressing our concerns. No matter who you are or how big or small your idea is, they are taking the time to listen. I have seen it firsthand and have watched Steve spend hours at visioning sessions to hear from hundreds of people, from community activists and local neighbors to Mets fans and residents from across Queens.

Through this inclusive process, we have had a chance to shape the project and ensure that we make this a place that celebrates what makes Queens so unique and dynamic. We can support more diverse local businesses and restaurants, create new access to the waterfront, expand transportation options, and have new spaces for community groups and support organizations to utilize. Cohen and his team have also repeatedly emphasized that one of the core tenants of the project will be to create new green space that everyone can enjoy.

While there are understandably some who have questioned why a hotel-casino would potentially have to be part of this project, I see it as the driving force that will make all these other improvements possible. The reason these lots have sat as empty asphalt for so long is because there is nothing to draw people to the area outside of a few hours during Mets’ home games. We need year-round entertainment that can draw people to the area and support local businesses every day. A project with year-round entertainment options including a hotel-casino will also bring thousands of new, good-paying jobs to our local community and neighborhoods.

I hope my neighbors and the Queens community will join me in continuing to be part of this conversation, and that together we can deliver on a vision for this area that serves residents, and creates a truly unique space we can call our own.

By Shimi Pelman, Queens District Leader 27-B