While those present at last week’s Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) meeting at Suffolk Downs concerning environmental impacts a possible resort-style casino may create in the neighborhood, many were impressed by the developers plans to make a casino at Suffolk Downs the greenest in the nation, but the environmental activists remained skeptical about the possible impacts.
“The airport encompasses hundreds of acres of pervious surfaces (soft ground not covered with asphalt), yet it has a decidedly bad environmental impact on the community so any amount of ‘pervious’ surface like anything, must be taken in context,” said environmental activist and AirInc. Member Chris Marchi. “‘Selling’ out of context over simplifications will only erode confidence within the environmental and general community. For instance, the green space on the artist’s rendering is divided by entrance and exit access roads carrying the 40,000 auto trips per day to and from the casino. The open spaces shown are shoulders of a highway, and pervious or not, do not add considerable public benefit.”
According to their Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), Suffolk Downs and landscape architect Sasaki wants to develop an innovative green infrastructure and pursue sustainable systems by using the landscape for purifying storm water, improving the saline soils, providing opportunities for environmental education and create a aesthetic experience.
The plan will also create a marsh like ecology and connect pedestrians to the Casino and its surroundings. The architect will also create a resort landscape, which embraces the marsh like setting of the site and serves as an amenity- and educational component for the community.
Part of this would be to connect the resort landscape with the overall Greenway system in Eastie.
“As an open space advocate and resident, I hope the casino proponents will stop contriving flashy public relations messages such as trying to spin a one billion dollar resort casino as ‘green’ and invest in productive and ongoing dialogue with the community to analyze the project, assess it’s mitigation needs and investigate opportunities to combine developer needs with the community’s,” said Marchi.
Longtime environmental activist and member of the Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh, Gail Miller, said between the increased traffic, the lack of connectivity of community greenways, next to no amenities, the water concerns and the magnitude of the casino’s power usage, she did not find a great deal in the proposal that provides for huge public benefit where there can be some.
“There is going to be the noise factor to consider, the glaring lights for residents on the north side of Orient Heights, the segmentation of proposals, which is likely,” said Miller. “These issues are enough of a concern without the whole laundry list. There is no real talk at this point for any effort to mitigate these impacts.”
Eastie newcomer and local writer Steve Holt called the plans slick, cutting-edge, and beautiful, but it was hard for him not to see them as merely an attempt to make people forget about all the other negative effects this casino would bring.
“Suffolk Downs is clearly not interested in the economic and social ramifications of plopping a Caesars casino down in a residential neighborhood, but they’re worried about the water quality in the marsh,” he said. “Doesn’t add up to me, and I’m convinced it won’t add up to the majority of East Boston voters.”