On Tuesday, November 5 East Boston voters will head to the polls and vote on one of the most decisive issues facing the neighborhood since Logan Airport expansion in the late 1960s.
The difference this time around is that Eastie resident, and not some state authority, will decide the future of the neighborhood.
At stake is a $1 billion casino development at Suffolk Downs and with it a Host Community Agreement that could potentially be a cash windfall of up to $20 million per year for the neighborhood.
Opponents argue the money is not enough to offset potential impacts a casino may bring.
As both sides head into the final stretch both Suffolk Downs and No Eastie Casino are mobilizing their supporters for what is sure to be a huge ground game on Election Day.
With what seems like and endless supply of money at its disposal Suffolk Downs would seem to have the advantage but No Eastie Casino representatives are saying don’t count their grassroots campaign out just yet.
A drive around the neighborhood Monday it is clear neighbors are literally on both sides of the fence. From Jeffries Point to Orient Heights to Eagle Hill some homes that share a fence have “Vote Yes for Suffolk Downs” while next door proudly displays their “Vote No on a Casino” sign.
“We feel great about the outpouring of support for Suffolk Downs in East Boston and Revere,” said Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle with a week left to go until the vote. “We are knocking on doors and calling people every day, answering questions and asking them to vote yes for community investment, yes for good jobs with hiring preferences for local residents, yes for local business partnerships and yes for preserving our historic sporting landmark that has been part of the community for over 78 years. In our dialogue with local residents, we are hearing more and more support for these benefits versus the potential of alternative mixed-use development on our 161-acre property that would likely occur and would clearly not have the same positive local economic impact.”
On the other hand Celeste Myers and her No Eastie Casino group said they are in full-on campaign mode, and proud of the many dozens of dedicated volunteers who have been reaching out to their neighbors.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about how the vote will go, and we’re on a mission between now and then to make sure our neighbors can tell the difference between the promises they’re hearing from the casino developer and the reality of the devastating consequences that will likely set in,” said Myers. “At the same time, we maintain that the Suffolk Downs casino plan is in turmoil, and we believe Suffolk Downs should withdraw their application,” she said. “Without anyone to operate the casino, with a 19% stake still hidden in a blind trust, and with at least one owner in serious financial straits, their application is clearly flawed.”
While Tuttle argues that Suffolk Downs supporters or the undecided would rather see a casino than a mixed-use development with no financial benefits for the neighborhood, Myers said the alternative may be something people could warm up to.
“Consider Assembly Square, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development in Somerville, which will, at full build-out, provide 9,700 permanent jobs and more than 10,000 construction jobs — in less than a third the land space of Suffolk Downs,” she said. “We demand development that brings great jobs to East Boston residents without the negative consequences that go along with a casino.”
With less than a week to go before the neighborhood votes on the Host Community Referendum for a casino in East Boston some neighbors are literally on ‘both sides of the fence’ on the issue. Here on Orient Avenue one neighbor is obviously pro casino while next door is in opposition.