Members of East Boston’s casino opposition gathered in Maverick Square on March 23 to protest the construction of an 161-acre resort casino complex at Suffolk Downs.
The project proponents promise to create 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs and invest $40 million in improvements to roads and infrastructure.
But the proposal doesn’t sit well with many residents of East Boston.
Holding his 2-year old son with one arm and bringing the megaphone to his mouth with the other, Pedro Morales said to the a crowd standing in front of Maverick Square, “This is my son Eli. Eli is going to grow up in an East Boston without casinos.’’
The family-friendly demonstration titled “Stand up East Boston’’ was organized by the leading casino opposition group No Eastie Casino to give residents a chance to speak up in their own words.
Attended by toddlers and long-time East Boston residents alike, the event also saw the presence of Spanish-speaking residents willing to voice their concerns.
During a “Speaker’s Corner,’’ neighbors had the opportunity to pick up the megaphone and express their personal take and concerns on the plans to develop a casino.
“The real goal is to showcase a chorus of voices,’’ said Celeste Ribeiro Myers, co-chair of No Eastie Casino.
Here from more community voices opposing this project in this gallery.
Tom “The Colonel’’ Domenico, 71, is a lifetime resident of East Boston.
“A casino is going to affect traffic, crime, pollution, my way of life, and my auto insurance,’’ said Domenico. “The roads cannot sustain a casino: with $40 million they aren’t going to build you a sidewalk from here to Central Square.
“There was a study that said it would cost $500 million, but that study has been buried. Nobody can find it.’’
Sam Albertson, 30, of Eagle Hill said, “I don’t usually get involved, but I feel very strongly about this one.
“I am very concerned with the impact on families, especially lower-income families. Gambling can lure them to put their money where they need it the fastest. Crime and busy streets will be an issue.
“Honestly, I’m offended by how the city says they want to hear from the community. It feels fake.’’
Mike Russo, 43, of Orient Heights said, “I am part of the organized opposition because I see the casino as a net loss to this community. How much social, economic, and environmental gain can come out of the slot machines in East Boston?
“We are surrounded by malignant land use. I am sick and tired of my community being used as New England’s ashtray.’’
Dario Zapata, 58, is a resident of Maverick Square.
“I’m here because I don’t want a casino to be constructed in my community,’’ he said. “Gaming generates addiction, and an addicted individual is a tragedy. The casino is going to negatively impact the community and displace our commerce.
“I think a lot of people will spend their money in the casino instead of buying groceries for their families.’’
Audrina Warren, 29, lives in Eagle Hill.
“There are better things that could be done here, not this casino that will suck the life out of East Boston,’’ said Warren. “The amount of money local businesses owners make will be less, because those who don’t know what’s in East Boston will go straight to the casino, thinking it’s the only thing in East Boston.’’
Pedro Morales, 40, resident of Jeffries Point attended the rally with his son Eli Morales, 2.
“I am very angry with the way the people of Suffolk Downs have managed this,’’ said Morales. “They’ve been here for 78 years and only in the past two weeks began approaching the Latino community.
“I think it’s insulting. A casino will be devastating for those who pay rent. It will displace people for economic reasons.’’
John Ribeiro, 73, of Eagle Hill said, “We’ve been fighting to keep the civility of East Boston for a long time. I have a map that shows that more than half of East Boston is actually called Massport. East Boston has always been thrown to the world.’’
Michael Murphy, 40, resident of Winthrop, attended the rally with Heather Engaman, 37, and Vivi, 3.
“I came here to voice my opinion,’’ he said. “We are hoping we can help East Boston mobilize.
“All you need to do is 10 minutes of objective research to realize [a casino] is not a good thing because of crime, public safety, and drunk driving.’’
Madeleine Steczynski, is a resident of Jeffries Point.
“I’ve seen this neighborhood fight with Massport,’’ said Steczynski. “To have another massive business that will negatively impact this neighborhood for the benefit of Boston gamblers is too much for a small community like East Boston.’’
Celeste Ribeiro Myers, is the co-chair of No Eastie Casino.
“We’ve been working since 2011 and have hundreds of Suffolk Downs opponents.’’ she said. “We are mobilized as a ballot campaign to educate, organize, and share it with our neighbors. We are the eyes, ears, and voice for our community that the elected officials are trying to obscure.’’
Jordan Schulz, 30, resident of Orient Heights participated with his daughter in his arms.
“We love the neighborhood and a casino is not good for families because of the addictive behavior it encourages,’’ he said.