In the face of continuing skepticism by residents, Frank O’Brien from the Department of Public Works (DPW) led the second neighborhood meeting regarding winter street sweeping. Starting December 1st, mechanical street sweeping is scheduled to continue in the North End through the winter instead of being halted until April. This forum was held at the regular Clean Streets meeting, a committee of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association. The City’s plans have not changed since the last public meeting (see Raucous Debate Ensues as City Introduces Year-Round Street Sweeping).
DPW describes the North End as the “perfect storm.” The street trash piles up in the gutters from densely populated residences, restaurants and tourist traffic. “We’ve really struggled attacking the problem,” said O’Brien.
Residents complained about the burden of moving their cars in the blistery winter weather. O’Brien responded that “mechanical street sweeping doesn’t work unless you move the cars.” He said the city has discussed fewer trash pickup days, changes in pickup hours and they believe the mechanical street sweeping is their best chance of keeping the streets clean.
Residents asked for more roving broom cleaners, a solution DPW says it cannot afford. Several attendees took objection to the city’s plan given the amount of tax revenue generated by the business and property taxes in the neighborhood.
If there is snow in the forecast, DPW will make a decision whether to go forward by 9:00 pm the night before. Notifications will be sent via the City’s No-Tow email system or residents can call the Mayor’s hotline at 617-635-4500. DPW will be doing a mass mailing to North End residents in the first week of November. There will also be postings and ads in local papers. During the first two weeks of December when the program begins, tickets may be just “warnings” to ensure residents are aware of the new program.
Several residents expressed concern about finding spaces to park in the winter weather. DPW has not arranged for alternative parking. The city hopes to remove snow in dumpsters to make more spaces available on the streets.
“Taxation without representation!” proclaimed a resident named John. “After all the tax revenue the city collects from the neighborhood, can’t they give us more than a mechanical street sweeper?” Other residents spoke about the Greenway parks where “six workers are bumping into each other to sweep the sidewalk” yet the City won’t arrange for one or two hand cleaners in the North End. Resident angst is rising and there was some talk of North Enders sitting on their cars in protest.
In the end, DPW said, “Look, we do not have the money for hand sweeping. It has to be mechanical sweeping.”
A North Street resident added that the street sweeping just blows the trash around, mostly to the other side of the street. He also says the “problem with trash is due mostly to bad code enforcement.”
Grasping for solutions, an attendee asked whether convicts could be put to work cleaning the streets. City officials wondered whether North Enders would want criminals walking the neighborhood.
Stephanie Hogue, newly elected NEWRA President said, “I have heard questions from some business owners as to how they will handle deliveries during street sweeping days?” Mr. O’Brien said, “They will be done the same way they do it in the summer. If a live delivery is being made, meter maids will take that into consideration”
I asked whether the city could ease the burden by offering parking in city lots around the neighborhood or changing the hours so that residents would not have to move their car before 8am in many cases. DPW said the lots were not available and they do not want to change the hours.
Michael, a Clean Streets member, asked why the prior day “go/no-go” notification was as late as 9:00 pm. He suggested ways the city could get the word out earlier.
Anne Pistorio, head of the Rodent Control sub-committee, said she intends to do a street by street survey of visitor vs. resident parking spots in the North End. She also reports that valet parkers are using resident spots on a regular basis.