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East Boston Casino, Old Filene's Site Move Further Apart

Add City Council President Stephen Murphy to the chorus of pols connecting any deal on an East Boston casino with construction at the old Filene's site in Downtown Crossing. "Nothing is going to happen until we hear from Roth and Vornado," Murphy told The Globe's Andrew Ryan. "We can't have a guy blow us off for three and a half years and then expect to come in and line his pockets 4 miles away across town."

To recap:
· Right before the Great Recession, New York-based Vornado Realty Trust, a publicly traded investment fund chaired by Steven Roth, bought the Filene's building, kicked out the tenants, and demolished the building in 2008 with the intention of building an apartment tower with retail.
· That never happened. The site has been vacant ever since as Downtown Crossing has grown up around it.
· In early 2010, Roth boasted to a Columbia University audience that he was letting the site lay fallow to lure public incentives to build. That pissed off Mayor Tom Menino, and a war of words erupted that has not stopped flowing since.
· Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in November 2011. Machinations and debates break out as to where the first casinos should go. Menino says he wants one in East Boston at Suffolk Downs. Roth's Vornado owns 20 percent of Suffolk Downs.
· Rumors emerge right before Christmas that Menino wants to tie any casino at Suffolk Downs with development (or a sale) by Vornado at the Filene's site.
· Earlier this month, the City Council created a special committee to study a casino in East Boston. And then quickly, under pressure from Hizzoner, did away with it. Any public vote on a casino looks to be limited strictly to East Boston.

And it looks like Vornado will get the casino without having to do anything about the hole in Downtown Crossing. Even Murphy's words seem to carry little oomph. Just ask the mayor's people:

"Truthfully, I don’t think it has any impact," said Peter Meade, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. “Singing, dancing, yelling, screaming—nothing can make this more important than the mayor has made this already."
...

“The economic redevelopment of Downtown Crossing and jobs for our residents is too important of an issue to get caught up in petty politics," [Menino spokeswoman Dot] Joyce said. “We will continue moving forward on these issues in the best interest of the city of Boston." Either life is, indeed, junior high and Menino's the popular kid. Or Hizzoner's public rebuke of Murphy is the surest sign yet that, if Boston does get one of the Massachusetts casinos, it's going at Suffolk Downs in East Boston regardless of what happens in Downtown Crossing.

· City Council Head Using Casino Plan as Leverage [Globe]
· East Boston Is Getting a Casino. You Got a Problem with That? [Curbed Boston]
· Downtown Crossing's Filene's Site, East Boston Casino: Tied? [Curbed Boston]
· Vacant Filene's Site Stealing Menino's Mojo [Curbed Boston]

Old Filene's Site

426 Washington Street, Boston, MA