Health & Environment

Public Works Listens to Trash Complaints at Clean Streets Meeting

Public Works liaison, Frank O’Brien, heard an earful about trash issues from North End / Waterfront residents at the NEWRA Clean Streets Committee meeting, held on April 17, 2012 at the Nazzaro Community Center. Many residents brought photos of trash scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Clean Streets Committee Chair, David Grant (left), and Public Works' Frank O'Brien
Clean Streets Committee Chair David Grant (left) and Public Works’ Frank O’Brien

O’Brien sympathized with the complaints and responded, “Of all the neighborhoods in Boston, the North End is most difficult to keep clean given the unique street infrastructure and mix of 100 restaurants, tourist traffic and residential trash needs. Public Works can do better.” Some initiatives the agency is trying this year include:

  • Seasonal hokeys (manual, human sweepers) will be starting next week with brooms and shovels. The hokeys are instructed to focus on the Freedom Trail streets. Residents asked O’Brien if the hokeys could branch out to some of the residential streets as well. (Ed: I’m never sure how to spell hokeys. It’s not a dictionary term. Any help or reference would be appreciated in the comments.)
  • New to the North End will be a new type of vacuum blower on backpacks that will be effective in picking up small items, such as cigarette butts, especially in areas like the cobblestones in North Square.
  • A mechanical street sweeper is in the North End 7 nights a week. Some residents noted that the night sweeper only goes down the center of the street, limiting its effectiveness.
  • O’Brien continues to listen to requests for more street barrel locations and streets that could benefit from the street sweeping program.

A recurring call by residents is for more enforcement of trash and cleanliness regulations. O’Brien said that Code Enforcement could not attend this weeks meeting. Clean Streets Committee Chair David Grant said he would try and schedule them for next month’s meeting. (View the Community Calendar for more meetings and events.).

In the South End, Public Works coordinated with Code Enforcement to do an enforcement sweep of the neighborhood. Neighborhood residents met with City Hall and the Boston Police to target certain areas. In the South End, O’Brien said the resident groups are looking at European-style compactors in the middle of streets where residents can put their trash instead of on the curb. The primary issue is that no one wants the compactor in front of their home. Still, the City is likely to find 2 or 3 locations this year to start a pilot program in the South End.

One of the more controversial issues raised by Public Works is reducing the number of days for trash pickups. O’Brien said, “Three days per week of pickups places residential trash bags on the curb six days a week including the night before. It is simply too much time for trash to be out there.” There are only four neighborhoods in Boston that receive 3x/week pickups: North End, Chinatown, Beacon Hill and Bay Village. Residents are reluctant to give up the 3x/week pickups, noting that a frequent issue is missed pickups when the contractor changes times without notice. One potential compromise is having 2x/week for regular trash and 2x/week for recyclables.

There is some confusion regarding the proper bags for trash disposal. Public Works recommends “2 ply bags” but in the stores, this translates to any bag greater in thickness than 1.5 milliliters. For reference, white tall kitchen bags are only 0.9 milliliters and do not meet the standard. Still, O’Brien conceded that “we have to figure out why we are fining people for certain types of bags (through the Green Ticket Law).”

Trash pickers continue to be a major problem. Public Works said this is an issue they have never been able to solve. NEWRA President Stephanie Hogue suggested that residents separate out returnables so trash pickers will not rip open every bag of trash in search of bottles.

Resident and neighborhood business owner Damien DiPaola highlighted issues around Salem St. with residential trash at Cutillo Park on Morton St., also known as ‘needle park.” DiPaola also asked if meter maids could give out trash violation tickets. O’Brien said he would look at that area but noted that union rules would likely prevent meter maid ticketing outside of parking issues.

Marie M., a resident, said the green tickets need to be issued like parking tickets, over and over again, until violators are taken to court. She attributes much of the problem to absentee landlords. She also believes that $25 is too low a fine to have an impact, similar to when parking tickets were less money than parking in a garage.

Public Works advises residents and business owners to call the Mayor’s Hotline for day to day trash issues at 617-635-4545.

2 Replies to “Public Works Listens to Trash Complaints at Clean Streets Meeting

  1. The City asks that household trash be put out in black bags that are at least 1.5 mil thick. Does anyone know where I can find 1.5 mil black bags that are sized for kitchen use (about 13 gallons)? I can find bags that are no smaller than 30 gallons, and that’s a waste of a lot of plastic. With all the recycling I do (half my trash is recycled), it would take me at least two weeks to fill a 30-gallon bag.

    Dave Kubiak

    1. Morton Street is an insult to the community. The City should not allow businesses to store or put out their barrels on that street and should redesign and rebuild the street to be a safe, well-lighted and attractive complement to Cutillo Park.

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