Wynn Casino vs Charlestown

April 21, 2015
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“The City is committed to protecting and enhancing the quality of life for all Boston residents, particularly for those who live and work in Charlestown.” With this simple, elegant and powerful opening statement to the state’s EOEEA in regards to the latest Wynn casino sugarcoating (SFEIR) the City of Boston Environment Department cut to the chase in regards to the key issue at hand. The statement continues: “The City of Boston opposes the proposed project for myriad reasons. Primary among these is that the project is incompatible with Boston’s redevelopment goals and plans for Sullivan Square; it will have significant additional impacts on Boston.”

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD), after a thorough and detailed analysis of the Wynn casino design not only by their own professional traffic engineering experts but also by an independent transportation planning consultant, has concluded that it must oppose the latest Wynn casino plan in its entirety. BTD states that after years of investing substantial resources into the development of plans that would metamorphose, butterfly-like, Sullivan Square into a low-traffic, pedestrian friendly neighborhood it has concluded that the Wynn casino plan would dramatically increase, rather than decrease, Sullivan Square traffic. Furthermore, BTD states that the Wynn casino would jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of Charlestown’s citizens. The BTD analysis clearly demonstrates that the latest Wynn casino plan is significantly deficient by about 1200 on-site parking spaces, meaning that Charlestown could be threatened by hordes of Wynn patrons looking for parking and further congesting local streets. This adverse effect is compounded by Wynn’s 15 percent increase in designed gaming positions and 26 percent increase in hotel rooms since their initial DEIR.

What is so particularly disturbing about the Wynn casino is that it would be a huge setback for the years of commitment by large numbers of Charlestown residents, working in collaboration with the City of Boston, in the development of new concepts to resolve the Sullivan Square traffic conundrum. The new parks and other neighborhood recreational facilities included in these new concepts would be jeopardized by the increased Wynn casino traffic, as described by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department: “The Parks Department remains concerned about the impacts of the Wynn project on Ryan Playground, less than half a mile from the Wynn main entrance, and also on the new parks and pedestrian amenities to be created around Sullivan Square”.

The City has also expressed serious doubt about the Wynn casino claims for providing significant levels of water transportation as vehicular traffic mitigation. For example the BRA states that Wynn’s water transportation objectives remain very unrealistic and directly risk overwhelming land based transportation systems, including roadways in Charlestown. The BRA states directly: “The Wynn casino’s veiled reliance on vehicle access through Charlestown will cause both immediate and long term economic and quality of life harm to the Charlestown neighborhood.”

Another local issue involving intense citizen participation that would be impacted by the Wynn casino is the beautiful new concept for the North Washington Street Bridge, whose design has been heavily influenced by the Charlestown Preservation Society, a couple of whose members have expressed concern about the capacity of the new bridge to adequately handle the projected increased levels of Wynn casino traffic.

Charlestown is a wonderful vibrant community that has the right to determine its own destiny for its own citizens, without undue pressure from external sources.

John Vitagliano is the former Boston Transportation Commissioner.