City Council head using casino plan as leverage
He wants progress at Filene’s site
The Boston City Council president delivered an ultimatum to the owners of Suffolk Downs: No casino proposal will move forward so long as a stalled development remains a gaping hole in Downtown Crossing. Council President Stephen J. Murphy claimed the authority to make such a demand from the state’s new gambling law, exploiting a seemingly innocuous provision about scheduling a referendum to its maximum effect. The aim, Murphy said, is to use a casino as leverage to kick-start work on the former Filene’s site, which has been left to languish by developer Steven Roth, whose company, Vornado Realty Trust, owns 20 percent of Suffolk Downs. For nearly two years, Mayor Thomas M. Menino has made similar threats, using the promise of a Suffolk Downs casino to take aim at the New York developer. And yesterday, the Menino administration disputed Murphy’s interpretation of the law, arguing that the council had little real sway in the push for a casino in East Boston.