Local Residents Concerned Over Projects’ Impacts

A group of East Boston residents concerned that the community process regarding waterfront development and a potential resort-style casino at Suffolk Downs has done little to inform residents of the impacts of such projects has conducted its own survey on the issues.

These residents have formed the Community Alliance and collaborated with Neighbors United for A Better East Boston (NUBE) and Dr. Neenah Estrella-Luna, a professor at Northeastern University and East Boston resident.

In the summer of 2012 the group surveyed 360 residents from different sections of the neighborhood and from different cultural and economic backgrounds.

Concerning waterfront development, the survey found that knowledge of the waterfront projects varies considerably across the neighborhood.

“We found that as you get closer to the waterfront and to residents adjacent to where these projects are going to be the less informed these people are,” said Community Alliance member Magdalena Ayed. “We also found that residents that live on or near the waterfront that do have knowledge of the waterfront projects were concerned that there is a lack of transparency and effort to engage the community. There is a perception that the new development is not family friendly and will become isolated from the rest of the community with no plan for integration or cohesion.”

According to the survey knowledge of the projects is highest in Jeffries Point, Eagle Hill, and Orient Heights.  The survey also revealed a clear ethnic divide with only 34 percent of Latinos aware of any of the waterfront projects, compared to 81 percent of non-Hispanic White residents.

“I was surprised to see that residents in Orient Heights are more likely to know about waterfront projects than Maverick Square and Central Square residents,” said Dr. Estrella-Luna.

However, while most residents surveyed had positive expectations about what the waterfront development will bring to Eastie, an overwhelming majority of registered voters surveyed were opposed to a casino at Suffolk Downs.

According to the survey over 50 percent said they did not support the casino proposal. The survey also found that support for a casino in Eastie is highest among residents with a high school education or less.

Residents reported that they expect many negative impacts if a casino were built in East Boston, such as higher crime, more traffic, more air pollution, and more noise.  They also expect an increase in addictions of all types as well as additional pressure on police and fire services.  Residents overwhelmingly stated that the general quality of life and sense of community would decline should a casino be built at Suffolk Downs.

“I’m concerned as a wife, mother and East Boston resident of the results of the survey,” said Community Alliance member Tina St. Gelais. “70 percent of my neighbors think a casino will bring more crime, 60 percent think it will increase pollution so I’m concerned that these issues have not been properly addressed or researched by lawmakers. No one has given me or this neighborhood tangible research or data that shows a casino will be a positive impact.”

St. Gelais said she and the group feel its time for everyone involved to take a deep breath and slow down the process.

“We all want the best for East Boston,” she said. “So I would like to see solid proof of a non-bias study that shows how a casino will bring safety and prosperity to East Boston. I want or elected officials to slow down and research hard so they come out of this knowing they did the very best for East Boston.”

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