Health & Environment

New Public Works Commissioner Visits NEWRA

A highlight of this week’s meeting of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association ( was the discussion with Joanne Massaro, the recently appointed Commissioner of the Boston Public Works Department (PWD). Also in attendance was PWD neighborhood representative, Frank O’Brien, who regularly attends NEWRA’s Clean Streets Committee meetings.

3829669-8144715-thumbnailCommissioner Massaro talked about her commitment to cleaning up the neighborhoods. The Commissioner acknowledged Clean Streets co-Chair Naomi Paul, the subject of a recent front page Globe article, and she noted some progress. One such improvement is better educational awareness such as proper trash disposal bags (2-ply) and general trash ordinances (North End Tip Sheet). She also said she wants to “get the businesses to be good neighbors.”

For the North End, she noted that the green machine will continue to be on the streets every night and the hoagies (manual sweepers) during the day. Street barrels are emptied 2-3 times per day.

A new idea on the table is that the City wants to continue mechanical street cleaning during the winter. “I realize it can be inconvenient, but I don’t have a problem making those tough decisions if it helps the greater good.”

Here are some issues raised during the question and answer session:

Anne Pistorio – “I am concerned about extension of businesses onto our narrow sidewalks. With the benches, barrels and sidewalk signs, where are the people supposed to walk?” Frank O’Brien answered “sandwich boards have to be permitted and most are illegal.” Inspectional Services is responsible for enforcement and reports can be made through the Mayor’s Hotline.

Nancy Caruso asked “What is the policy of the businesses leaving out their containers on the sidewalk 24 hours per day?” Massaro said that is illegal and reports should be made to Code Enforcement.

Tom Schiavoni asked about how the city can be more creative and productive with recycling, mentioning the programs seen in European cities. The Commissioner supports such efforts. Examples of new programs include special days for types of recycling such as electronics (e-day) and shredding. “However, I don’t believe we can get much further with recycling without cooperation of the big buildings. There, we are looking at audits.”

Jane Mead noted that plowing snow onto handicap ramps is unacceptable. “The department has become more sensitive of accessibility issues,” answered Massaro.

Left to right: Anne Pistorio, Commisioner Joanne Massaro, NEWRA President Mark Paul, Vice-President Stephanie Hogue, Secretary Katie Kulikowski.
Left to right: Anne Pistorio, Commisioner Joanne Massaro, NEWRA President Mark Paul, Vice-President Stephanie Hogue, Secretary Katie Kulikowski.

Paul Nelson asked, “Where is the recycling material taken?” The answer is Charlestown where a facility near the Bunker Hill Community College does the sorting and distribution. Public tours are available.

Sanjoy Mahajan asked if there are any plans for composting? The Commissioner said city-wide composting was not a near-term reality.

Stephanie Hogue suggested that DPW coordinate with the Zoning Board of Appeal to encourage renovated buildings to have dedicated trash rooms.

Mark B. noted that European street-sized dumpsters would be an idea for some parts of the North End.

Leslee Parker thinks trash should only be picked up 2x per week (instead of 3x currently) to reduce the number of hours that garbage is on the streets. She also thought the DPW could help buildings share big bins among residents on certain streets. The Commissioner said the “hardest thing to do is take back a trash day.” She thinks it is unrealistic to change the current 3x/week trash pickups.

Leslee further suggested asking the restaurants to put in some money to complement the City’s trash efforts. The Commissioner said she supported the “Business Improvement District” initiative in Downtown Crossing to clean things up. She said it takes a long time to set one up, but it is a possibility for the North End.

Mark Paul suggested revisiting the concept of reducing the hours when trash can be put out on the streets, which currently begins at 5:00 pm on the night before pickup. Massaro said the Capitol trash contract does not come up until 2014, so there will not be any major changes until then. One smaller change is to do “same day pickup” where residents put out trash between midnight and 7am (rather than 5pm, the night before).

Dave Roderick said he would like to see more “removal” in the City’s snow removal efforts. “The North End is too dense to just push it around.” He noted that NYC has melting containers.

Matt Conti asked who is responsible for overflowing trash barrels in Christopher Columbus Park. Massaro said the Parks Department, although they have cut back on pickups due to budget cuts. Matt thought better coordination between DPW, Parks and Code Enforcement would help the overall cleanliness situation. Mary Nelson suggested simply adding more barrels in the parks.

Victor Brogna shared an idea to reduce the nightly trashpickers by abolishing returnables and let the City get the recycling fee instead. Massaro said that the City does not receive compensation for the recyclables that it delivers.

Virginia Costello asked for clarification on 2-ply bags because the tall white kitchen bags in the stores are mostly 1-ply. The Commissioner noted it was a confusing issue because the 2-ply bags are generally only in very large “leaf” size. Meeting attendees said that Glad has started to make 2-ply white kitchen bags available in stores.

DPW Commisioner Joanne Massaro summed up by saying, “In general, people want to do the right thing. I want to help them make those right decisions.” The NEWRA group thanked the Commissioner for attending and also commended the efforts of the DPW’s Frank O’Brien.

More posts on trash and neighborhood cleanliness.

3 Replies to “New Public Works Commissioner Visits NEWRA

  1. Unless somebody from NEWRA plans on coming to my place between midnight and 6 AM to take out my trash, you people, including the people in city hall, better figure something else out. Who is going to clean and disinfect all those ugly dumpsters you people are talking about? get real!

  2. Why does it have to be midnight or 5pm? Can't there be a compromise, say 10pm, to put your trash out the night before pick-up. There has to be some middle ground here. The less time trash is out on the street the less time the rats have to break them open and forage. I really do hope in 2014 when the contract is up with the waste disposal company, a trash day is removed. Residents who work regular hours and are up at 7am, should make the effort to put their trash out in the morning, when the rats are sleeping and the trash pickers are at home. Those residents who have irregular hours should make every effort to put their trash in 2-ply plastic bags. I still see people using 1-ply bags, which are very easy for the rats to break open. Everyone should stick their head out the window on a trash night and watch the rats break open bags, it's absolutely disgusting.

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