It seemed a casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston was gaining a veneer of inevitability. The mayor came out strongly in favor of it. His people on the City Council fell into line behind him, including the neighborhood's rep. Residents in the other nearby option, Foxborough, organized quickly and loudly against a casino. And, two weeks ago, the deal for the mother of all recent Boston towers was announced, that which is planned for the old Filene's site in Downtown Crossing, which seemed to work out the last kink in the grand plan: not rewarding site owner and Suffolk Downs stakeholder, Vornado Realty Trust, for leaving the former Filene's spot vacant another year. Yup—check, check, check, check. Everything was proceeding smoothly.
Enter No Eastie Casino. It's a sapling of a group of locals, many longtime and some newcomers, who have a Facebook page and a website, and who oppose a casino in the neighborhood. They don't want the extra traffic, booze, God knows what else that would come with a Vegas on the Harbor. And they have a bit of precedent at their backs as Andrew Ryan of The Globe reminds us this morning:
East Boston’s battles with the Massachusetts Port Authority have become neighborhood lore, especially the fight in the late 1960s and early 1970s over the extension of a runway, when mothers lay in the streets to protest the destruction of parks and homes. It hasn't come to that yet. But the group is not in a race to a compromise.
“In a lot of respects, [the mothers in the streets] is kind of the Alamo in East Boston," said Mike Russo, 42, who lives in a Dutch Colonial his grandfather bought in 1935 and can hear the public address announcements at the racetrack from the front steps. “We’re in this to win this. We’re not in it for mitigation. I don’t give a flying handshake about ornamental street lights or new uniforms for the T-ball team." For their part, Menino and his people are continuing with the line that the casino is all about the paychecks (presumably not to be cashed and jockeyed into slot machines). Says local Council rep Salvatore LaMattina, “What I’m hearing in East Boston is a lot of people looking for jobs." And some in No Eastie Casino have supported the mayor in the past, making the current confrontation a bit odd and uncomfortable (Menino won 60 percent of the East Boston vote in his last re-election).
It could all come down to the ballot box, though. The group wants a citywide vote. The mayor, etc., want to keep it just to East Boston; they have the law on their side (though they could vote for the citywide vote, natch). Stay tuned. There are bodies upon the gears now. Says one local: "We’ve been here for 400 years on this little island. We’ve never lacked the ability to stand up for ourselves."
· East Boston Group to Fight Casino [Globe]
· Filene's Site to Be Filled! Ritz Developer Behind New Tower [Curbed Boston]
· Downtown Crossing's Filene's Site, East Boston Casino: Tied? [Curbed Boston]
· East Boston Is Getting a Casino. You Got a Problem with That? [Curbed Boston]