Survey Reveals Waterfront and Casino Development Concerns Among East Boston Residents

Contact:Dr. Neenah Estrella-Luna, (617) 216-1890 or n.estrellaluna@neu.eduContact:Gloribell Mota, (617) 981-4010 or

Publication Date:February 25, 2013


EAST BOSTON, MA – A group of concerned East Boston residents came together to form the “Community Alliance.” This group collaborated with Neighbors United for A Better East Boston (NUBE) and Dr. Neenah Estrella-Luna, a professor at Northeastern University and East Boston resident, to develop and implement a survey in the summer of 2012 to determine what residents know and how they feel about proposed projects in Eastie, such as the various waterfront development efforts and the casino proposed for Suffolk Downs. “There’s a lot of potential change coming to East Boston,” described Alliance member Tina St. Gelais. “We wanted to know what people think about the different projects.”

After collecting 360 surveys from residents, the Community Alliance found that knowledge of the waterfront projects varies considerably across East Boston. Perhaps most surprising is that some of the residents living closest to the waterfront are the least likely to have any knowledge of the proposed development projects. “I was surprised to see that residents in Orient Heights are more likely to know about waterfront projects than Maverick Square and Central Square residents,” said Dr. Estrella-Luna. Knowledge of the projects is highest in Jeffries Point, Eagle Hill, and Orient Heights. The survey also revealed a clear ethnic divide: Only 34% of Latinos were aware of any of the waterfront projects, compared to 81% of non-Hispanic White residents.

Though most residents surveyed have positive expectations about what the waterfront development will bring to East Boston, some reported concerns of how the development could change the fabric of community life. As a Jeffries Point resident wrote, “In my opinion, one of the best things about EB is the close knit nature of working-class people (mostly immigrants) who have struggled to build better lives for themselves. Any waterfront development should be designed to encourage integration between newcomers and long-time residents.”

Members of the Community Alliance view the results of the survey as a wake-up-call.“We’re not opposed to development,” said Alliance member Magdalena Ayed. “But huge segments of the population are not informed about the changes on the horizon for East Boston. It’s time to come together as a community. Residents should be informed and engaged in planning the future of their own neighborhood.”

Unlike the waterfront development projects, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed know about the proposal to develop a casino. Opposition to the casino is greatest among registered voters, over 50% of whom stated that they did not support the casino proposal. Support for a casino in East Boston is highest among residents with a high school education or less.

Residents reported that they expect many negative impacts if a casino were built in East Boston, such as higher crime, more traffic, more air pollution, and more noise. They also expect an increase in addictions of all types as well as additional pressure on police and fire services. Residents overwhelmingly stated that the general quality of life and sense of community would decline should a casino be built at Suffolk Downs. One life-long Orient Heights resident wrote, “Nothing good will come to Eastie if [a] casino comes.”