Steve Wynn asked for a fruit basket.
Charlestown gave him five.
In a side note to Wynn’s appearance in Boston two weeks ago – a whirlwind visit that marked his first time here since winning the casino license – Wynn comically gagged to the audience at the South Boston Convention Center that, for all his efforts to develop a world-class property here, at least the Mayor of Boston could have sent him a fruit basket instead of a lawsuit.
The comments came during his keynote speech at the Collier’s International New England Real Estate Trends Conference at the South Boston Convention Center on Jan. 15.
This week, Wynn Everett officials confirmed that at least five Charlestown folks actually did send Wynn a fruit basket – adding a little more humor to an already humorous situation.
It was also a sign, some suggested, that a good many in the Charlestown community might be interested in moving past the fight against the casino and trying to work proactively, though cautiously, with Wynn and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).
While four of those folks from Charlestown did not wish to speak publicly about the fruit baskets, Mike Charbonnier of Charlestown Against Drugs (CHAD) did go on the record about his fruit basket gift.
“It seems to me Charlestown has a lot of concerns, especially along substance abuse and we’re losing our beds in the YMCA that were supposed to be mitigated,” said Charbonnier. “I don’t know what Steve Wynn can do for us, but you get more with honey than vinegar when you approach this thing. There are a lot of battles that need fighting in Charlestown and I don’t know if this is one that’s worth fighting anymore as long as he is working to mitigate the traffic. He’s saying he’ll put money on the table to fix it.”
Charbonnier said he read about Wynn’s comments in the paper indicating that he didn’t expect a parade, but it would have been nice to get a fruit basket. In order to show a little humor and some support from Charlestown, Charbonnier said he thought he would send a basket.
Charbonnier said he and others have been fighting to get resources to address the drug problem – among other things – over the years and haven’t always gotten the support they would wish for. Perhaps, Charbonnier said, there might be value in looking to Wynn’s resources to address those issues.
“A handful of people in Charlestown have been working with youth and drug issues and higher overdose rates,” he said. “Dan Ryan and I started that 10 years ago and we would have important meetings and six people would show up. They have a casino meeting and 200 people come out to oppose it. It’s a little disheartening for people out there doing the grunt work. This may be an opportunity to get something positive for Charlestown out of all of this.”
Charbonnier isn’t alone.
A growing number of long-time Charlestown residents are starting to publicly talk about the benefits of at least engaging with the Wynn Resorts folks.
Andy O’Hearn, a life-long Charlestown resident, said he has attended all of the meetings and has come to the conclusion that the project would be good for the neighborhood – mostly due to environmental reasons. However, he said he also hopes that people can begin to come together in a unified way to begin seeing what Wynn can do for Charlestown.
“Some of the Charlestown people who don’t support it, maybe they don’t understand the opposition is over,” he said. “Maybe we weren’t for it originally, but now it’s inevitable…Maybe we should all prepare for what’s probably inevitable, but if you want to keep your fingers crossed with the mayor’s lawsuit and hope to have no casino, what have you lost by talking with Wynn. Nothing…It’s time we start talking about how we can make the most of this for the neighborhood. I’m hoping that’s where we are headed.”
O’Hearn, 52, said he weighed all of the presentations and came away excited that the industrial areas on the Everett and Charlestown side of the Mystic River might get redeveloped as Wynn anchors a potential revitalization of the area.
“I support this because of cleaning up the land and hopefully getting the whole industrial area on the Everett and Charlestown side developed as well,” he said. “That’s a piece of land that I don’t think anyone else would ever invest any money into unless it’s Wynn. Look at the Navy Yard. When I was a kid, it was a shipyard. It’s totally changed. I live on the Medford Street side and it’s not just visibly polluted, it is really polluted. I am old enough to remember what’s here now and what was here before. This is an opportunity to start that development too.”