Mayor Bill de Blasio remains a stumbling block in the sale of the Mets to colorful hedge-funder Steve Cohen, declining Monday to rule out a city holdup of the deal that beleaguered Amazins fans have craved for so long.
Because the Mets’ stadium, Citi Field, technically sits on city-owned land, avowed Boston Red Sox fan de Blasio has the right to weigh in on the pending sale by the Wilpon family, which again gained steam earlier this month.
Hizzoner’s sign-off was widely expected to be a formality — but he struck a more cagey tone during his daily press briefing Monday.
“This is something our Law Department is evaluating right now and we obviously want to get to a resolution on this very quickly,” he said. “The deal is this: Because the land that Citi Field is on and the stadium belong to the city, the city always has to have a role when there is an ownership change.
“There’s a process for doing that. The Law Department is doing its due diligence right now,” he continued. “I’ll be getting a report from them soon and it’ll just be based on the facts of the research they’ve done and then, again, we’ll speak to that very quickly.”
A de Blasio administration source had previously said it was “hard to see” the city review holding up the final sale to Cohen.
But an insider fumed Monday that even this much scrutiny is unnecessary, and that de Blasio is just butting in for the sake of doing so.
“The city does not have to play a role,” the source said. “This is ridiculous!
“It seems like the typical de Blasio thing, trying to get attention in the wrong places,” the source continued. “And stick it to billionaires.”
Among the potential hang-ups is Cohen’s past involvement in an insider trading scandal at his SAC Capital Advisors that saw him reach a civil arrangement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016 that barred him from managing money for two years.
In an August tweet, de Blasio press secretary Bill Neidhardt raised the issue.
“Hard to imagine a worse owner than the Wilpons, but an insider-trading, racketeering billionaire hedge fund vulture is not great,” wrote Neidhardt.
Questioned Monday about the propriety of the tweet in light of the city’s role in the review process, Neidhardt stressed that the message was not sent in his professional capacity, and that he personally has no sway over the sale.
“This tweet reflects my personal views, which are well known when it comes to billionaires,” he said. “I am not involved in the Law Department’s analysis of the lease.”
A representative for Cohen declined comment Monday on de Blasio’s remarks.