Somerville Mayor's First Impression of Casino Footbridge May Not Be His Last

Friday, November 13, 2015

Now Steve Wynn has sweetened the deal for his Eastern Massachusetts casino with a pedestrian bridge over the Mystic River.  The span would lead from the casino site in Everett to the fast-rising neighborhood at Assembly Row in Somerville.

Though only a concept, it’s already a bridge too far for Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. 
He was quoted in today’s Boston Globe as saying, “A footbridge would benefit Steve Wynn and Steve Wynn only.  Wynn is looking to tap into the success of Assembly Row to get more people to his craps table.”

There are a couple of reasons at least why the mayor might want to blow up this plan while it’s just an image on a computer screen.
First, he’s a longtime opponent of casino gambling.  Back in the fall of 2014, Curtatone explained his views on the subject in an interview with WBUR, Boston’s public radio station.  “I’m opposed to casinos because casinos don’t build communities,” he said.  “In fact, casinos abide to the economies of extraction.  They take monies out of downtowns like Chelsea and Charlestown and Somerville and other communities and put them at the craps table and roulette wheel.”

Second, Somerville is a plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which seeks to overturn the commission’s decision granting a casino license to Wynn.
It would have been a news-making surprise if, yesterday, Curtatone had called a press conference to announce, “I still hate casinos as much as ever.  They exploit their customers and run roughshod over communities.  I’m hopeful our lawsuit against Wynn Everett will succeed.  But, you know what, I love that pedestrian bridge Steve wants to put up.  The guy’s a peach.”

This bridge would make it easier for Somerville residents to apply for jobs at the casino and get to work there, should they be hired.  It would make it easier for people living in Everett and other communities north of the river to get to the jobs and attractions of Assembly Row.  It would improve access to the public parklands on both sides of the River.  It might even make life safer for the many bicyclists who pedal to their jobs in Boston every day from the north.  What bicyclist in his right mind wouldn’t prefer a walkway over the Mystic to the traffic-packed Alford Street (Route 99) Bridge?
Memo to Wynn’s handlers at Mintz Levin: Recruit the organizations that promote cycling into your bridge campaign; start by contacting the Boston Cyclists Union at

Lawsuits and bureaucratic inertia notwithstanding, it’s looking more certain that a casino will be built in Everett.  An extensive environmental clean-up of the site, formerly the locus of a chemical factory, has already begun.
To bring us an eye-popping mini-Vegas on the Mystic, Wynn is committed to spending something like $1.7 billion.  This will be a pleasure palace worthy of the next incarnation of James Bond. 

Until they get the world’s greatest singer, Van Morrison, there “for one night only,” I won’t go near the place.  The gambling gene is practically non-existent in my bloodline.  I’d rather go to the dentist than go shopping.  I cringe at high-end restaurants where they put a little bit of food in the middle of a large white plate and charge you extra for the sides.

I do, however, get excited at the notion of an Everett-Somerville pedestrian bridge. 
If we’re going to get a casino there, I hope our leaders will make sure that bridge is part of the deal.  If it is, I predict it will be heavily used by the public, in ways we cannot yet anticipate, and for purposes that have nothing to do with enriching Mr. Wynn.

I also predict that, if the kill-Wynn suit against the Gaming Commission fails, Mayor Curtatone will endorse the bridge -- but not before extracting from Wynn a commitment to build the mother of all pedestrian bridges.  Joe knows negotiating.




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