Key Bronx Lawmakers Yet to Back Crucial Legislation for Bronx Casino

Bally’s gambling complex proposal at the former Trump Links in Throggs Neck relies on getting state approval to alienate parkland, but lacks local leaders’ support as the legislative session winds down.

By Jonathan Custodio, THE CITY

May 30 5:10pm EDT

The former Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point sits in the shadow of the Whitestone Bridge. Credit: Spencer T Tucker/Mayoral Photography Office

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The odds for a proposed Bronx casino could be getting dicey as local lawmakers resist permitting use of local park space — paralleling pushback that is complicating a gaming pitch for Queens. 

The resort operator Bally’s is seeking to build a 3.1 million-square-foot complex within Ferry Point Park in Throggs Neck, where it already operates the city-owned golf course formerly controlled by a company associated with former President Donald Trump.

As described by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce, which is seeking environmental review for the proposed project, “Bally’s Bronx” would feature a half-million-square foot gaming hall as well as food and beverage service, a hotel with a spa and meeting space, retail shops, a 2,000-seat event center and a parking garage for up to 4,660 vehicles. 

The city’s proposal will be the subject of a public hearing next month as the first step of environmental review related to widening a road within the park. 

But the proposed project would also require the state legislature to approve “alienating” some park land for commercial purposes, with support of local Bronx representatives — and no such legislation has been drafted as this year’s legislative session enters its final days. 

One of them, Michael Benedetto (D-The Bronx), told THE CITY he has not taken action this session.

“I am certainly listening to the thoughts and concerns of my constituents before making a decision here to support or oppose this proposal,” Benedetto said in a written statement. “I have not introduced any legislation to alienate parkland,” he wrote, and “I am not advocating for any alienation bill.” 

Benedetto is facing a reelection challenge in the June 25 primary from Jonathan Soto, who is running against the incumbent for the third time on a democratic socialist platform. 

Meanwhile, the office of State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez declined to comment, citing more pressing legislative priorities in the final days of the session, which runs from January through early June.

Bally’s did not respond to a request for comment from THE CITY.

Bally’s already faced an uphill battle to establish a gaming facility. It is just one

in a competitive field of 11 bidders vying for three downstate licenses to operate a casino, two of which are expected to go to existing operators of racetrack betting facilities in Queens and Yonkers. 

Benedetto’s statement to THE CITY comes on the heels of the announcement this week by State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) that she will not support legislation to alienate parkland in Willets Point currently used as a Citi Field parking lot, action that had been requested by Mets owner Steve Cohen for his own casino proposal. The state legislature customarily allows the local member to decide whether or not to introduce such a measure, effectively giving them a veto.

“This is an absolute barrier,” Rebecca Bratspies, a CUNY School of Law professor specializing in environmental law, told THE CITY. “You cannot alienate parkland without an act of the legislature,” precisely because it “is so precious and so vulnerable” a public resource.  

The last day on the calendar for the State Legislature to introduce bills without a special session is June 6. The New York State Gaming Commission is reportedly expected to award licenses in late 2025.  `

Last summer, the city sought to temporarily alienate a portion of Van Cortlandt Park to erect a huge temporary stadium to host matches in the ICC 2024 Cricket World Cup, drawing fierce criticism from local groups. Organizers then reached a deal with Nassau County for a new stadium there. 

Bally’s now faces a similar hurdle in the absence of an alienation bill. 

“Either they have to reconfigure their project to not use parkland, which is entirely possible and they may well have that in their back pocket as Plan B,” said Bratspies. “Or they will not be able to move forward.” 

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