Video vs. casinos

Nov 18, 1998 at 12:00 am

Residents of Detroit's Rivertown community are using a documentary to help convince city officials that their plan to locate three casinos on the city's east side is a mistake.

"We want people to appreciate what a terrible idea it is to put casinos on the riverfront," says Carol Wiseman, writer and director of the 52-minute video.

"It's a terrible idea to demolish 200 housing units in a city with a housing shortage, to force 55 businesses to relocate in a city trying to attract businesses, to put casinos in a neighborhood near 5,000 school-aged children," argues Wiseman, who is helping spearhead a movement to ensure the public's voice is heard in the casino decision-making process.

Wiseman's video, Reconsider Baby, was produced by the grassroots Riverfront East Alliance (REAL) to emphasize the historical significance of the old factories, quaint taverns and unique apartment buildings slated to be leveled under the current casino master plan.

About 50 people gathered at the Atwater Brewery on Nov. 5 for the first public showing of the video, which Wiseman hopes will "catch on" and inspire city residents to save the Rivertown neighborhood.

"City Council wants us to believe it's a done deal," says Wiseman of the council's 6-3 vote in April that sanctioned Mayor Dennis Archer's plans to locate three casinos along the Detroit River. "We will work very hard to put the casinos somewhere else," Wiseman says.

The video is starting to win supporters.

"When I moved to Rivertown I was neutral on the subject," says Jason Waitt, a new resident in the community. "Now I'm starting to change my mind."

"It brought out issues about the general history of the place," adds Wayne State student Bob Trajkouski. "I didn't know a lot of these places would be wiped out."

Evelyn Johnston of the Waterfront Reclamation and Casino Development Citizens District Council says that she's becoming increasingly frustrated by a process that is failing to seek real input from the 21-member council, which has raised concerns about such issues as traffic and feasibility.

"We're given information by the city," says Johnston. "But when we refute anything we're told, 'You can not like it all you want. It's already decided anyway.'"