Commentaries Government

NORTH END MOMENT: Code Enforcement Overkill

(A cherished mom-and-pop vegetable stand was targeted for closure this by city code enforcement officials.)

It was Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, and something was out of place at the intersection of Salem and Cooper Streets. To the untrained eye, there were three potted plants discarded along the sidewalk on the corner. On closer inspection, they turned out to be fig tree saplings, abandoned in haste by a father and daughter when they were ordered by a Boston code enforcement officer to vacate a makeshift produce stand that was a beloved summertime fixture for North Enders and foodies.

Every Saturday from June to September for 45 years, husband and wife, Joe (Giuseppe) and Josie (Giuseppina) Tammaro transported home-grown vegetables from their Billerica farm to a curbside pop-up market featuring fresh greens, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, Roman beans, zucchini flowers and a host of other Mediterranean delicacies, including jars of Josie’s legendary home-style mushrooms and marinated eggplant. Joe passed away last September after a long bout of illness, but Josie was determined to carry on as best she could with help from her son Patrick (Pasquale) and 15-year-old granddaughter Rachel who lovingly intervened to keep the decades-old family enterprise afloat. They certainly weren’t doing it for the money. You might say they were in it as a consolation to the recently-widowed Josie who returned on sunny days holding forth from an aluminum beach chair and dispensing smiles and pleasantries with old-timers in a southern Italian dialect.

Stand location

It did not take much effort or imagination to conjure up the sounds, smells and ambience of Josie’s childhood paese – an ancestral village in the rolling hills of Campagnia. The Tammaro family’s sidewalk mercato has been part of the rhythm and fabric of an increasingly-gentrified neighborhood still clinging to certain traditions and a way of life that is facing extinction.

photo (1)
Sidewalk area of former stand

And so it went on a Saturday morning when a uniformed officer from City Hall summarily ordered the father and daughter to break down their stand. Patrick tried in vain to explain about his parents’ operation. They had never been approached about a license or permit in 4 ½ decades of openly conducting business along the sidewalks of Salem Street. There never was a warning. No heads up. Not even a get-a-permit-or-you-will-be-out-of-business-next-week.

This was a set piece from City Hall, intentionally directed at an elderly woman’s vegetable stand as payback for an unrelated incident occurring during Saint Anthony’s feast on the previous weekend. It was a calculated act of bureaucratic bullying, an example of selective enforcement of an arcane municipal ordinance which had nothing to do with the Tammaro family. Not a big deal in the life of a city, but still a heavy-handed reprisal against a family and a way of life in a neighborhood creeping towards a tipping point.

(From Boston’s North End, Thomas F. Schiavoni writes about neighborhood life and city living)

Update: The vegetable stand has returned. See this follow-up post.

50 Replies to “NORTH END MOMENT: Code Enforcement Overkill

  1. It seems that there’s is one ongoing message that City Hall/Mayor Walsh is sending the residents of the North End is “We don’t want you here. You’re standing in the way of our greedy skyscrapers filled with voters that will keep us in power. We will strangle the culture and break the spirits (along with wallets) with our power, until it’s another cookie cutter New York City.” I have countlessly attempted to contact the Mayor and express my concerns about the message his office is (from what I assumed was inadvertent) sending, I essentially was shooed away with little care or regard. I believe the next few years are crucial for non-transient North End residents to “scream” their concerns to anyone who will listen or face the inevitable gentrification that the BRA, Mayor’s Office and City Councilors have already sold their souls for. It’s a very sad time for this city.

    1. Time for us to stand up with our votes and not just in the mayoral election. If other elected officals don’t want to do their jobs and protect OUR NEIGHBORHOOD (they don’t live here), they need to go as well.

  2. I was wondering why Pat was not on the corner when I went by there on Saturday and why I did not bump into you , Tom, as I often do at the stand. Guess ISD thinks tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and chard are as bad for the public as selling funny lemonade on the corner during the feast. SMH

  3. “It was a calculated act of bureaucratic bullying, an example of selective enforcement”

    The sad thing is that this happens every day and calls to the mayor’s office and even our city councilor’s office get ignored.

    Every day commercial vehicles endanger all of our safety with their illegall parking.

    I have seen enforcement walk past these vehicles and turn a blind eye, been told that enforcement can’t get to it right now because they are tied up ticketing for street cleaning and was even told by the mayor’s office that they could not tow an illegally parked vehicle because the tow trucks were there for street cleaning.

    Commercial vehicles have been seen on hanover st parked in the middle of the street for HOURS without getting a ticket. 8:01 or 12:01 and Btd is already writting tickets for residents.

    We let our elected officials take an inch here and there and then they keep going, but selectively.

    Don’t have a car so this isn’t your problem? Hopefully it won’t be when a Firetruck or ambulance is delayed because some commercial vehicle doesn’t have to bother to do what is residents have to… Find a legal parking spot.

    There are plenty of OBVIOUS violations (not just talking about parking) that the city could go after, but they don’t. They go after the individuals who won’t fight back (or don’t know what’s going on) instead of the real problems.

    And of course the city isn’t having budget issues so they don’t need the extra revenue.

  4. So typical. They enforce the rules when they feel like and ignore the rules to suit their interests. Shame on the Mayor shame on the city of Boston . I can’ t believe how I yearned for the day I would retire and move back to the North End . Unfortunately there is no North End left to move to.

    1. Perfectly said Leonard.
      I’m dying to move out of the North End! As you said, “there is no North End left…”
      I never thought I’d want out but I do, so badly!

  5. Funny how you can dump trash, furniture, a mattress, etc. on Salutation St. And nobody gets in trouble. Sorry for family.

  6. Just listened to a rewind of an NPR piece with Jim and Margery mourning all the Boston and Cambridge institutions that are gone. I keep hearing news about Boston institutions and ways of life and people and corners — like dominoes falling. I loved all the progress I saw living there in my Menino 20. I had such an awesome life there. At the end, the place seems to be developing into an unrecognizable landscape. Give me the W and Saks any day, but the city is strangling and murdering all that is real. Walsh is the biggest mistake the city ever made. I am so, so glad I got out when I did. Boston is gone. Maybe I am an old fart, but I am happy watching little Providence grow with tons of moms-and-pops and new and unique businesses. Very little fighting and pouting about things. Sure, I miss high end stuff and all the North End treasures and all the dives and dingy places and unique venues and food and one-of-a-kind shopping and run on and run on, but I don’t miss the price gouging and the flagrant disregard of everything that made Boston great by those claiming to be all for her. While the Waterfront people irked me with their stuffiness, when I am once again reminded that Fredda Hollander likely passed prematurely due to the hell ravaged upon her in the defense of a basic Boston icon and place of peace; repose; vistas; and whatever you wanted it to be — I really am glad the next place on my list years from now is the deep woods. Our cities are changing. Malls with Mayors never included Boston. Walsh is ushering that era in. Worst vote I ever cast. Sad.

  7. Does anyone know if you can go to the Billerica farm to buy they’re great garden produce?

  8. Why should they be exempt from the permit requirements that everyone else in the city has to follow? They can go get their permit this week and be back in business in no time.

    1. Why should commercial vehicles be allowed to park wherever they want and not get tickets…

      And if they do…

      Coke, a multi billion dollar international company, gets a $40 ticket for INTENTIALLY breaking the law and endangering public safety…

      while a north end residents (let’s just say average 100k net worth
      ) forgets about street cleaning and they get hit with a $120 fine.

      Or what about the visitors who juice the city’s tax revenue (which is redistributed) who take resident spots? How about bigger fines for them and maybe a break for a resident?

      What about the cars that line commercial st? I’ll be honest, the ones on Sunday am that are there playing bocce, I’m a little partial to and say let them be.

      What about the parents who think the sidewalk on charter st is a parking lot? Why not let more north end kids into the school so that why there is less “need” for parents to drive into our neighborhood to pick up their kids.

      There are probably very few residents who say screw it. I’m going to chance it without being out of legal parking options, so why do the above groups get a break?

      1. On the tickets you are 100% right. I overhear people saying all the time that ticket is cheaper than the garage and they are going to take a chance. Make the fine $150 city wide and see how quickly that stops.

        1. How about the commercial vehicles that park in emergency turn radi, right in the middle of Hanover st and pretty much where they want and the Btd TURNS A BLIND EYE.

          Call city hall, according to them residents are happy with the job Btd is doing (really), call the councilor’s office “we’re not going to deal with this any more”

  9. Thanks so much, Tom for articulating the sentiments of most of us who love the North End. In terms of Code Enforcement, clarification is needed regarding Street Cleaning regulations. While inclement weather prevents street cleaning, residents assume they can remain in the parking spaces; which is logical. However, residents are ticketed and occasionally towed. This is unconscionable and needs to resolved with the Mayor’s Office.

    1. The sad thing is that residents are ticketed before the street cleaner goes by, the street cleaner swerves around where they are and THEN Btd (actually WALSH towing- coincidence?) comes in and tows the resident.

  10. Our North End is gone and there is no turning back and as far as code enforcement goes that is a money making business and everybody knows that, why else do we have it. Disgusting.

  11. Nasty to just shut down these vendors after 45 years, with no notice. The impetus surely did not come from ISD. Wouldn’t y’all love to know who did this? Perhaps a public records request to ISD would be helpful. Would be great to publicly shame the complainers.

  12. Growing up in the north end I remember these people. I would look forward to the produce in the summer from them. The best Swiss chard. With all the fuss about farm to table food , here the north end had a truly authentic family farm to provide just that. And it has to go….but you can always buy a $3.00 pepper at the new Boston Market. Go figure, shame on the city of Boston.
    Josie and her family must have been so embarressed having to break down the stand by demand.
    What happened to the fig trees, I hope some caring person has them and will take care of them.

  13. I don’t understand this outpouring of hate for city hall. Gripe gripe gripe is all you people seem to do. How about looking around and being grateful that the crime rate in this area is less than half of what it was in the 80s and 90s? How about being appreciative that property values in the North End have been steadily rising, and that you lifers who own property around here saw a nice big bump in your net worth as a result?

    As for the Tammaro stand, I’m still struggling with what the resistance is to walking (all of 5 minutes!!!) down to city hall for a permit. The sense of entitlement here is obnoxious — basically you want to do whatever you want to do without following the rules, but the moment it is someone else doing what they want to do without following the rules, you get your panties in a twist. Why should Tammaro be operating a business on city streets without paying any sort of a fee or tax to the city while all other businesses on the block and other vegetable stands at the public markets pay taxes/permit fees? Why should Tammaro’s truck be parked (illegally!) in a resident spot, or not even in a resident spot, but at that tail end of cooper street, which isn’t a spot at all, making it difficult for other people to turn onto cooper?

    And for all the people lamenting the “old” North End, here’s a newsflash: city demographics change. We are so fortunate to be part of a dynamic city that is relatively low in crime, regarded worldwide as an intellectual hub, one of the healthiest cities in which to live, cultured, historical, not to mention beautiful….the list could go on and on. If you don’t like change, or putting up with other people, especially other people that are different than you, why are you living in this city in the first place?

    And yes, it does feel like the city is not consistent in its treatment of residents at times — the fines for resident parking violations seem entirely excessive compared to visitor fines for parking in resident spots — however that doesn’t excuse our behavior. The street cleaning signs are there in plain English. We can all see them. If you see a visitor in a resident spot, call to have them ticketed. Going around openly flouting rules, such as these permit rules, because you, personally, like this vegetable stand, is not productive.

      1. KrisK-
        You are obviously a yuppie and not a true North Ender plain and simple! Had you been, you would have said what every one else who is has stated! I love when people say they’re from here, but only lived here at most a handful of years. It’s a personal matter or about money otherwise, why in over 4 decades would getting a permit matter now?! I don’t see permits when the college goons have outdoor parties and bbq grills and kegs on the sidewalks. And the crime rate was never high here to begin with in this particular neighborhood because there were people around that didnt allow unacceptable nonsense! Had they still been around half you people wouldn’t be! Did the old lady who sat in front of Bovas with her homemade lemonade stand have a permit? NO! Why? Because that’s how our neighborhood was! That’s what made it out neighborhood! But, like everyone else said, it’s gone now because the dollar is more important and Stuff like the vegetable stand, lemonade stand, feasts and processions with loud bands, mom and pop stores, etc that made it the unique neighborhood that it used to be is gone now! Property value has gone up, yes, but it’s because of all this other ridiculousness. However, in return it’s only forcing rents to go up and forcing lifers with no choice but to leave including the elderly who reside in the local nursing home to put up yet another unnecessary building instead. It’s making it less and less of a “neighborhood” and more of a yuppie/college-kid-clown town! The North End was once a neighborhood where you walked down the street and everyone knew everyone. Friends standing on the corner just socializing. Parents were all friends or all knew eachother. If anyone was in trouble someone was 5 feet away to help out. Now, forget it! That’s all dead. And everything i just wrote is the truth because I know, ive witnessed the changes, listened to the all the complaints by the new people moving in. I’ve lived here all my life. My whole entire family in from here! If you people don’t like how it is why don’t you leave! The newcomers are the ones who feel a need of entitlement. We should change for you because you pay a lot of money to live here. You don’t like it, sell your overpriced condo and go back to wherever it is that you came from and take your bike lanes with you.

        1. How about we stop using the terms yuppie and north ender ( I almost put that in an earlier post, but decided against it). Or if we do use those terms, how about we don’t use them as derogatory (as I am going to try to do below).

          Also let’s remember one thing, the only thing constant is change. Change brought us from rubbing two sticks together to make a fire to hopefully eat something we killed to being able to turn on a stove or even pick up our phone and order whatever our hearts content without having to speak to anyone on the other end (kind of ironic isn’t it?).

          With that being said, all change is not good, for example the nursing home. Should it exist there in perpetuity, on the fence, but more on the no side.. Should it be closed next year or the year after or even years after that- no.

          I probably am considered a “yuppie” since I moved here when I was 22. I’m on the cusp of 39 and have left 2 times completely and commuted back and forth to westchester for work for about 10 months- spending most weekends here and most weekdays there. Even with those 2 “departures” I have somewhere around 15 years logged as a resident.

          I had a discussion with a “north ender” last year about some neighborhood things and he said it should be left to the “north Enders” and I immediately chirped up. He said it’s different with you, you’ve been here long enough (which I then inquired how long was enough and he said 10 years). I no way consider my self a north ender and even if I take my last breaths here, I never will, but don’t consider myself a yuppie either (or at lead the way it is used in this forum).

          By the way, what happens when 2 yuppies settle down and have kids here. How do we classify those kids?

          As a “yuppie” I don’t feel entitled, in fact I feel greatful that I get to live in such a vibrant neighborhood.

          I feel so greatful that I get to live here that I’ve gone out of my way to get to know the “north Enders”, will drop everything (even while at work) to help “the last of the originals” cross the street or walk them whenever to make sure they get where they get there safely.

          I donate time and money to neighborhood groups, even though I don’t have much of either for myself (probably the poorest (money wise) person on this forum).

          And here is the bottom line, we all live here. I have the utmost respect for the north Enders as they are the originals, but here is the thing about the “yuppies…” many of us have lived in other cities (4 minor and 1 other major for me), states (3 for me) and even countires (unfortunately 0) and yet we settled here. I doubt many of us “yuppies” decided to move here to change the neighborhood (would make a good conspiracy theory though). Many of the “north Enders I know we’re born, raised and intend to pass in our neighborhood without having lived anywhere else, which is great, but coming from someone who has left and come back, I don’t think you can truely appreciate what WE have without fully experiencing some place else.

          My one negative comment on this diatribe (done from my phone)… If you left (doesn’t matter north ender or yuppie), you have every right to comment, but if you cared, you would have fought for your principals (no matter what they are) and stayed. Very few wars are won without losing battles.

          Actually another negotive comment… this “yuppie” hates the bike lane. I think it is a matter of time before we have a major car accident from the narrowing of commercial st.

        2. You are spot on. Perfectly said. How extremely fortunate we were to grow up here and have the memories.

    1. Why don’t commercial vehicles have to follow the same rules as resident with regards to parking.

      And again, how is a tractor trailer be allowed to sit in the middle of Hanover st for hours when Btd is ontop of street cleaning in minutes.

      I had 4 tickets that I just paid… All of them were within 7 minutes and I had moved my car no later than 10 minutes from the start of street cleaning… Yet enforcement WALKS RIGHT PAST COMMERCIAL VEHICALES THAT ARE ILLEGALLY PARKED.

      One of those tickets was 2 minutes after street cleaning (8:02) and I got there 4 minutes late. Why was I late? Well let’s just say I had some stomach issues which I won’t get into here. And just to clarify it wasn’t because of a night of drinking.

    2. And why is it ok for other commercial vehicles to park at the end of cooper (Comcast regularly parks there)? Those commercial vehicales are doing delivers (or installs) and aren’t right there.

      Is it ok that the family parked right there, no. Would I rather have them parked there and standing right there so they can move right away if needed compared to some guy making a delivery down the street (or worse- I’ve seen the coke truck parked on hanover and doing delivers on Salem and vice versa).

    3. Krisk – Spoken like a true transient! Bump in our net worth? Is that what this community is all about? And, of course, the point is missed altogether. This is a minuscule operation which has provided a unique benefit to local residents for decades and has had a minimal impact on the corner where they set up. No one in City Hall took the slightest interest in them until residents started complaining about streets filled with the detritus of short-termers. Then this reprisal took place. It’s the same old pattern – residents complain about illegal parking, residents get aggressively ticketed, etc., etc. Why does preserving our quality of life have to be a constant battle? And how about a little common sense in the enforcement department?

    4. Why didn’t they need a permit for 45yrs now it’s an issue.This doesn’t just happen and I’m assuming your not from here I suggest you adapt to our ways or feel free to LEAVE

        1. Agree with the comment by truth.

          Can’t we show a little respect?

          I agree that the sudden change after 45 years is absurd.

          ISD could have come down, had a conversation saying we had an issue last week at the feast and now city hall
          Is over reacting as usual.

          Can you please go down during the week and get the permit before next sat?

          I think that’s the it could have been handled that we all can agree on no matter wich side you are on.

  14. Where the hell is Code Enforcement when residents are throwing their trash out wherever & whenever they want. The
    bottom line is the fines are not steep enough. Impose a $500 fine on the Absentee Landlords who constantly have trash in
    front of the same buildings & they in turn can impose the fine on their tenants. These residents think of the North End as a
    Pit Stop, not their homes. We the longtime residents are constantly dealing with the same trash problems for years.
    People only get away with what you allow them to get away with. These fines are a Joke, that is why the Trash Problem still
    exists. The City has no reason whatsoever not to raise the Fines to $500. & then & only then will you see a clean neighborhood.
    Why aren’t our Politicians making a stand & telling our Mayor this is a N E C E S S I T Y, not a Luxury. The Rats are having a
    Field Day at every Residents’ Expense. You don’t need a Brain Surgeon to figure this out.

  15. The March goes on to try and squash the few little remaining “real north end feel” as one walks thru.For some of us it’s always going to be ‘home’. On the times we go back for a stroll thru our streets we see less and less familiar faces,so many changes,most not for the better. The long time north Enders fight day by day to preserve some of it’s history some slowly giving up as there is no one to stand with them at the city hall wanna be big shots. As sad and heart breaking it is,,they can Never take away the memory,,the glory,,that home means to so many of us scattered across the state and elsewhere,,some traditions fight for another year,,even some parts of the feasts have gone commercial,,years ago north end families sold food and other stuff not for a big pay day,,but for the love of the times they were going to enjoy that weekend,,you still see some scattered relatives trying to keep it up,,such as the Parziales,,they do it for the enjoyment of the guests who visit and enjoy the streets we walk thru every day,,I cringe to think the so called “city hall” big shots will try to make these obsolete ,,This used to be my playground,,this used to be my pride and joy—North End–always my home town!

  16. I think that our resources would be better served by rounding up the junkies & drug dealers Marty , instead of ” busting” & hassling people selling lemonade & fruits & vegetables.

    1. Well said!

      I think Marty has the fix in on that as well.

      Shut down a treatment facility on Christmas Eve so they all head to heroin mile.

      Great for the dealers and he let most (if not all) of the workers keep their jobs spending tax payers money (and I’m sure b.good is a proud sponsor of Marty’s lunch and Marty ’17)

  17. We have had problems long before Marty. Menino did not do anything about the Trash Situation either. Let’s call an Ace an Ace
    & a Spade a Spade. They keep on saying the Crime rate is low, that is because there are a lot of cover ups. It is one Lie after
    another. If you want to correct the Trash Problem you hit them in the Pocket where it hurts, not these Mickey Mouse Fines that
    they issue. What proof do we have as residents, that these fines are even being paid? Has anyone seen the Real Estate Taxes
    of any on going Trash Violators. The City has been insulting our intelligence for many years, and will continue to do so unless
    we make a serious stand, and I mean SERIOUS.

  18. Here is a great example.

    Check out this Illegal Parking at Intersection Of Prince St & Hanover St

    Enforcement just walked past this truck and did NOTHING.

    No doubt in his way to get ready to bust people for street cleaning.

    You’ll have to excuse me as I have to move my car.

    1. And when they get caught in the act.

      THEY LIE.

      Check out this Illegal Parking at Intersection Of Prince St & Hanover St

      You can see where the first case was, the time and then when the second case was and the location.


    1. UPS usually parks on hanover and the actual street.

      This box truck is parked ON the side walk on little prince st.

      There is no way a fire truck or ambulance could get by, but that doesn’t matter (or anything related to public safety) to our elected officials until a tragedy happens.


    Check out this Illegal Parking at 270 274 North St

    Construction vehicales double parked on the right of this report for most of the day- nothing.

    Resident on the left- ticket on windshield.

    I’m pretty sure those construction guys know that it is illegall to double park.

    Poor resident on the left, probably forgot.

  20. Hopefully my last comment, but straight from the our city councilor’s mouth a while back when discussing illegal parking in the neighborhood and the lack of enforcement on one particular street and how it was a 5 minute problem that now is over an hour.

    “That’s the way it always has been”

    Apparently atleast one city agency gets to use that excuse not to enforce and the parking issue we were discussing has multiple cars parked on the side walk making it impassable to in the side walk and too narrow for emergency vehicales.

    But apparently OUR safety is less important than an innocuous street stand.

    1. It seems to me that their aren’t the # of “meter maids” or parking enforcement people that walked or drove thru the streets of Boston & the NE that seemed to be everywhere a few years ago.If your expecting a cop to give out a ticket their cruiser would have to be on fire for them to get out of the car.

      1. It is selective and targeted enforcement against residents while turning a blind eye to commercial vehicales.

  21. And yet again after the calls and e-mails yesterday the same thing happened again.

    Check out this Illegal Parking at 379 381 Hanover St

    I saw 6 residents get towed yesterday and here you can see Btd walk right past the box truck with no ticket issues.

    Selective enforcement does exist.

  22. Probably should check with the City to see whether this was new enforcement processes or the result of someone who complained about the stand.

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