While thousands flocked to Suffolk Downs Racetrack Saturday to take part in the Belmont Stakes festivities a small but determined group of anti-casino residents were less than three miles away protesting the placement of a resort-style casino in the neighborhood at the 77-year old racetrack.
Members of No Eastie Casino, the grassroots group that has been gaining a level of momentum in recent weeks held what they said will be the first of many demonstrations to oppose a casino Eastie in Maverick Square.
The group, about 25 men and women, was joined by former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and spent the afternoon handing out leaflets, talking with commuters at the station and holding signs protesting the construction of casino here.
“The message we are getting from officials is they are not hearing the people,” said spokesperson for No Eastie Casino Celeste Myers. “People have a lot of questions whether they are for or against. We believe people haven’t gotten all the details like what happens to the community when a casino lands here and how will impact the city.”
Of the actual plans unveiled by Suffolk Downs last week Myers said it left a lot of unanswered questions like traffic impacts and visual impacts on residential views from Madonna Hill.
In response to Suffolk Downs’ plan, No Eastie Casino released a letter stating that a casino is ‘too risky of a bet’ for Eastie.
“Many residents and civic leaders vehemently disagree, asserting that a casino in Boston would drastically and negatively change the face of the neighborhood and city – driving up traffic and crime, detracting from local businesses, lowering home values, and placing another burden on an area that already plays host to an international airport,” the letter stated. “Over the last several years, East Boston’s low crime rate, affordable housing, and proximity to Boston and the North Shore have made it one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. A casino is simply not in the vision many residents have for their neighborhood or Boston as a whole.”
For his part, Flynn said he was in Eastie to support the group because he agrees a casino might not be the best fit for the neighborhood
“People are very concerned about their neighborhood and the quality of life in their neighborhood,” said Flynn. “I’m here because it basically comes down to the fact that the people I have talked to want a better quality of life for their kids, their neighbors and their friends.”
Flynn said he thought the land could have been better used like the waterfront in South Boston.
“I would have preferred that the land, which is very valuable land, be used like the South Boston waterfront which has turned into a great innovation center for the city and state,” said Flynn. “There development has also created jobs and trains people to become efficient professional people.