By Seth Daniel
In a shocking follow up to the environmental license appeal filed by Somerville on Feb. 12, Wynn Everett officials made a startling announcement Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, in saying that they would halt all construction activities, put off seven job fairs, institute a hiring freeze and cancel the April groundbreaking – but they will not leave town or abandon the $1.7 billion project under any circumstances.
The announcement took place on the construction site, which is currently being environmentally cleaned by a contractor, with the backdrop of more than 100 trade union and service union workers standing in support of the project – not to mention Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish.
While announcing the halt in hiring and construction, Wynn reaffirmed its commitment to its destination resort in Everett and vowed to vigorously fight Somerville’s appeal.
“Wynn has never been more resolved or motivated to build our resort in Everett,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Wynn Everett. “Unfortunately, the appeal by Somerville’s Mayor leaves us no choice but to shut down our permanent building construction down. We can’t put a shovel in the ground to build until a final conclusion is reached.”
Rich Pedi of the Carpenter’s Union said to “stop the nonsense and start the construction.”
“Currently our unemployment rate for the Local 218 is 18 percent,” he said. “We definitely can use the jobs. Most private projects don’t have hiring goals for diversity and this one does. That’s one thing that really bothers me about this so much. There are going to be a lot of minorities, women and veterans on this job. That’s huge. Everett residents and surround communities, including Somerville, will be benefitting.
“A lot of people had counted on this project being on time and starting soon,” he continued. “I don’t know what will happen now, especially at 18 percent of workers who are now unemployed. What will they do? We’ll try to get them work when the season starts up, but this was a project everyone was looking forward to getting started.”
Curtatone, who had a press conference after Wynn on Feb. 24, said it isn’t Somerville that’s holding things up, but rather Wynn.
“We still don’t have a meaningful traffic mitigation plan for an area that is already congested by automobile traffic,” he said. “I want to be clear, creating traffic is far more than a simple inconvenience. It is a serious health threat…No amount of political theatre and public harassment by Wynn will keep me from doing my job in advocating for the health and well-being of the residents of our community…What’s holding up this project is not Joe Curtatone or the City of Somerville. It is the Wynn team. As soon as Wynn is willing to step up to the plate and deliver a responsible traffic plan and address our environmental concerns, then this project has a possibility of moving forward. It is their unwillingness to do that which is holding the project up, not us.”
DeSalvio said the appeal by Somerville and Curtatone has caused significant delay, and he laid blame on Curtatone for what he said would be the delay of thousands of construction jobs. The halt will include:
- Canceling seven job fairs scheduled for Somerville, Everett, Boston, Malden, Medford, Chelsea and Cambridge.
- Immediately freezing all hiring for the 4,000 union construction jobs and all operational positions that Wynn was starting to fill.
- Canceling Wynn’s planned April construction groundbreaking.
Curtatone filed the appeal of the Wynn Chapter 91 Waterways license on Feb. 12 – a process that is governed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). That administrative process will require hearings and information sharing and could take up to six months to one year to clear up.
“The administration looks forward to MassDEP bringing the parties together to review and address the issues raised in the appeal in a timely manner,” said William Pittman of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Office.
“Consistent with the practices for the handling of any Chapter 91 project appeal, MassDEP will review the appeal, bring the parties together to adjudicate the issues raised in the appeal, and work in a timely manner to address the issues contained within the appeal,” added Peter Lorenz of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
Curtatone has clarified that the Chapter 91 appeal is one of five lawful appeals that Somerville has against the casino and he has said he is exercising his legal rights.
That complaint was seized upon Wednesday by Wynn Everett officials, who counterpunched with statistics they said showed that Curtatone has plans in the works that would bring up to 85,000 cars through the area in the future – adding to what they said is an Assembly Row project that already adds 40,000 cars to the area and has not been mitigated adequately.
While Somerville claims that the 18,000 vehicle trips a day generated by Wynn will negatively impact the health of Somerville residents, said DeSalvio, Mayor Curtatone fails to mention that three Somerville projects that he strongly supports (Assembly Row, future Assembly Square expansion, Union Square Redevelopment and Northpoint/Somerville portion) will generate more than 85,994 total new vehicle trips per day—nearly 475 percent more cars than Wynn Everett will generate.
All of these projects are within two miles from Wynn Everett, he said.
DeSalvio added that Wynn has spent three years and has completed 20 exhaustive environmental and traffic plans that have been thoroughly reviewed by three federal agencies, 12 state agencies, 14 municipalities and 20 local organizations. These studies, he said, demonstrate that Wynn would add the following traffic to Route 93:
- Only 0.85% (less than 1%) onto Route 93 Southbound
- Only 1.97% (less than 2%) onto Route 93 Northbound
DeSalvio also pointed out that Wynn and Somerville participated and completed a mutually agreed upon arbitration process in 2014. Wynn won the arbitration, with Somerville getting nearly all the money that it asked for—except for an unsubstantiated $1.5 million annual payment. Somerville agreed to the settlement and has accepted and cashed the first payment by Wynn, DeSalvio said.
Now, Somerville is seeking the exact same demands that were denied in 2014 by the arbitrators, he added.
Photos by Joe Prezioso
Flanked by Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria and union officials, Wynn Everett President Bob DeSalvio announced on Feb. 24 that the Wynn project has halted all activities due to the appeal of its state Chapter 91 license by Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone.
Rich Pedi of the Carpenter’s Union said his local is experiencing 18 percent unemployment right now, and the Wynn project start date in April or May was being counted upon.
Local carpenter George Lorance said he was disappointed by the work freeze announced by Wynn and had been counting on working at the project this year.
Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish said it is important to get the project started on time.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he is disappointed with the actions of Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, noting that Everett was a good neighbor in dealing with the progress and development on the Somerville side of the Mystic River.
A Wynn supporter flashes her allegiance to the Wynn project and the jobs it promises.