There has been much concern and consternation over the past year about the possibility of a Wynn Casino on Charlestown’s doorstep. I share my neighbors’ and neighborhood’s concern about mega-development in our backyard. However, I have also consistently cautioned against having a laser focus on just the Wynn Development as our square mile is being pushed from all sides. There is no better evidence of this than my drive every morning. As I head toward Somerville on Rutherford Avenue to take the U-turn that will bring me to the State House the horizon is now pierced with four elevator shafts in Assembly Row. Kudos goes out to the residents and City of Somerville. Their fortitude saw a long range master plan to fruition. These spires represent the revitalization of an urban wasteland on the banks of the Mystic. They stand in stark contrast to the now twelve year old remnants of a torn down overpass that seems to be waiting for Evil Knievel to stick a landing. As I turn direction I see to the right, just past my alma mater Bunker Hill Community College, the promise that is North Point and further away Kendall Square. On the other end of the North Washington Street Bridge I arrive at an old submarine signal station adorned with the words Converse. Behind that building will sit more hotel rooms than Wynn Everett will have one mile away.
I fully understand the prospect of casino gambling brings many more questions than does traditional development. There is no precedent on how to bring such a development to greater Boston. I applaud the many levels of government that are holding Wynn Everett’s feet to the fire. Mayor Walsh, Attorney General Healey, the Boston City Council, the Gaming Commission and various levels of the Executive Branch are all executing their regulatory and administrative roles to the best of their ability. We will continue to sort out the various facets of this legislation and attempt to mitigate the negative impacts of a gaming establishment. However, I would be remiss as a legislator if I did not also alert my constituents to the positive aspects of this proposed development. Some are fast approaching and mandated by the Expanded Gaming Law.
One such piece of the puzzle is occurring this Saturday, May 9th. From 9:00AM-Noon representatives from twenty-one construction trades will be at Everett High School, 100 Elm Street to meet with residents from communities impacted by Wynn Everett. These are not just good jobs but great jobs. You don’t have to support or even want casino to realize that Charlestown is surrounded by opportunities for employment–whether it is bio-tech engineering, medical professions or those who build and clean the structures where these emerging industries are housed. These developments will need tradespeople too.
Over the years Charlestown has transformed from an industrial neighborhood, but much of its blue collar base remains–as it should. Good paying jobs with access to a credit union, health benefits and yes union protection helped generations of residents do better for their family and their neighborhood. Many of the residents within our square mile have not felt the benefit of Boston’s urban re-birth. We are home to the largest public housing development in New England. Two other privately owned, reasonably priced housing developments for working families are also within our borders. Building a resort casino is not the answer to all our economic questions but until someone says otherwise it is an opportunity that is knocking at our door. I implore any Charlestown resident to answer. I’m not asking you to let that stranger in. Just don’t turn them away without exploring the possibility. There will still be avenues left to fight or mitigate a casino if you so choose.
Rep. Ryan is the elected state representative for Charlestown and Chelsea.