Commentaries Police & Fire

Unity Street Resident Sounds Off on Noise and Disturbance Issues

The attached letter relates specifically to ongoing problems at the Eliot Elementary School, which helped lead to the near-riot conditions at and near the Prado this past weekend. However, the general problem of noise and disturbances is again becoming serious and we need to encourage our police and elected officials to do more.

The street noise from revelers is worsening. Hanover Street has become a combination of Bourbon Street and a Hell’s Angels convention, with the roar from motorcycles audible throughout the North End on most evenings. As the Boston Globe has supported, the motorcycle noise ordinance is completely unenforced. Trash is strewn everywhere, with ordinances being ignored and unenforced. Restaurant patrons are allowed to monopolize sidewalks without any attention from the police, forcing residents to walk on the street and face accidents. Tenants — both students and young professionals — shout loudly on the street when they leave their residences and upon returning, oblivious to any semblance of courtesy.

Despite the lip service paid by the Police Department — and the brief, symbolic display of police presence that occurred in April, following media attention — these problems are not being taken seriously. When beat cops are present in the North End, they are certainly not addressing these problems. The police stance appears to be that the under-aged drinkers who rampage in the Eliot Playground should not be arrested out of concern for their youth — I have been told as much by a beat cop. Another beat cop told me that “the North End is primarily a commercial neighborhood” and that the lack of crowd control on Salem and Hanover is thus to be expected.

The South End is not like this. Nor is Beacon Hill, Charlestown, or the Back Bay. While no neighborhood is immune to problems, a routine visit to those neighborhoods does not reveal the same routine “party atmosphere” that is becoming more and more a feature of the North End.

I hope we can continue to bring these issues to public attention.

C. Alex Hahn, Esq.
Unity Street welcomes commentaries on community issues via email to Opinions are those solely of the author. Responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

30 Replies to “Unity Street Resident Sounds Off on Noise and Disturbance Issues

  1. Another example of the failure ( refusal, actually) of public officials to perform their duty, especially when it pertains to noisy public disturbances.

    The writer reports "However, the general problem of noise and disturbances is again becoming serious and we need to encourage our police and elected officials to do more." Good luck with getting them to do more or anything for that matter. This particularity applies to those loud motorcycles that have their way with the public sound scape.

    The writer also reports noise disturbances resulting from under-aged alcohol consumption and that the police do not see that as a serious enough problem worthy of their attention. If I am not mistaken under-aged alcohol consumption is unlawful and widely considered to be a serious violation of the law and a serious problem worth addressing. I would also think enforcing that law would be an example of those "better things to do" the opponents of motorcycle noise control so often cite in their attempts to dismiss their unlawful and noisy public disturbances and stave off enforcement of the law that pertains to them.

    Both of those public disturbances are unlawful and serious public disturbances, at least on paper. However, in the minds of this particular police department and city government they are not serious enough to warrant their attention, especially if enforcing them might upset certain commercial enterprises, those reveling drunken youths, and those roaring Hells Angles wannabes.

    One police officer summed up the official attitude when he told the writer "the North End is primarily a commercial neighborhood and that the lack of crowd control on Salem and Hanover is thus to be expected". So the North End has been declared a 'hands off' zone by the police department. Is that what the public expects? With an attitude like that from your public officials you will have to do more than just encourage your police and elected officials to do more. You will have to demand it or they will continue to do nothing and keep their hands off the 'exempted zone' with all it's 'exempted' and noisy law breakers.

    1. It's nice to know that there are still some fun sections of Boston left. That said the underage drinking should not be ignored though. Two summers ago many of the Seacoast towns took a stance on underage intoxication and arrested anyone that appeared to have consumed alcohol that was underage and charged them with internal possession of alcohol by a minor. The person did not have to appear drunk. If the cop smelt it on their breath they were hauled away. This sent a message and cut down on underage consumption since. As far as the noise of tenants in the streets and crowds at restaurant doors, well welcome to the city and be glad people are going out and spending money at the local venues and that they're packed enough to have crowds outside waiting. That's a sign of a vibrant city

  2. i think the BPD has more serious problems such as rapes, home invasions, and murders. I do agree that there should be something done about the masses of youths being destructive but do you expect the BPD to stand on hanover street and handout tickets to loud motorcycles? We live in the city sometimes it gets noisy and the city is not gonna waist its man power on a few loud motorcycles.

  3. The real issue here is that Boston does not have a REAL Bourbon Street. Many cities have entertainment districts in areas far from residents, where bars and restaurants can be open late without disturbing neighbors, which releases residential neighborhoods from fulfilling this role. Boston believes that it can continually crack down and force people to go to bed at 10 PM. That is not true, and even if it were, it would have a severely detrimental effect on our economy, which is more reliant than most on tourism and technology (which is reliant on young entrepreneurs). If we are serious as a city about letting residential neighborhoods exist in peace, we MUST have a district (like the Seaport, or Washington Street downtown where people can stay late at a bar and get a bite to eat afterwards. Otherwise we are just pushing the partying around to residential districts that don’t want it. Let’s get together and demand this from the city, rather than demanding that the police try to make people not wat to party, which is impossible and stupid.

    1. What do you call Landsdowne St, Canal St, Quincy Mkt? the area around Temple Place, the clubs in the theatre district.etc.? There are certainly enough places in Boston for people to stay out and get a drink until 1 or 2 AM and there are plenty of places to go get a bite to eat. If you want to drink until 4am …consider moving to NY. The real issue is the young people who think it is OK to come back to their apts in the North End at 2 or 3 AM and scream and yell and carry on like they are out in the middle of the country. Nobody is telling anyone to go to bed at 10PM. What we are telling you and your friends is to shut the hell up at 2AM and act like the adults you pretend to be. Talk about thinking you are entitled. We should demand a late night party zone from the city. ROFLMFAO.

      1. This is what is so sad about this debate. You refer to me and my friends, as if I am part of the problem. FYI, I am far from the age cohort you’re complaining about, and can’t remember the last time I saw 2 AM. So, now that you know that, let’s see if you have a real argument, instead of ad hominem attacks. The places you mention close at 2 and do not offer diners or pizza places for people to go after 2. So, the people who want to be awake, or get a bite to eat, or keep being young and carefree, go back to the North End, to their apartments, and make a racket around people who are trying to sleep. I am someone who is trying to sleep, and I am offering a solution based on reality. You may think that people who like to be awake after 2 should just move to New York. I do not. Boston used to have far more places for late night revelry and food, and in those days noise was less of an issue in our residential neighborhoods. People would leave the clubs on Lansdowne Street and go to a diner in Kenmore Square. If those diners were still there, and open all night, do you think 20-somethings would choose to be in their cramped apartments, keeping us up at night? Of course not. We are all victims of the Menino nanny-state we helped create, working under the ridiculous assumption that if we made the entire city shut down at 2 then everyone would go to bed at 2 on a Saturday night. If we were more realistic about human nature, we could drive people to certain late night neighborhoods, away from our apartments and sleeping babies, and we could all get on with our lives.

  4. The kids who rampaged through neighborhood were underage. So are the kids behind the school. Creating a “late night party” zone is not going to solve the issue.

    By the way, there are a ton of clubs on Landsdowne Street, and they close at the same hour they have for 30 years.

    Also by the way, it’s possible to get food — and for that matter, probably even an after-hours drink — in Chinatown as late as 4 a.m.

    So respectfully, the debate over whether the city is “too square” is off point of how to address noise and disturbances in the North End. Your comments are interesting and perhaps worthy of overall debate but they don’t really relate to the issue at hand. The notion that a “late night diner” in Kenmore Square is going to solve this problem strikes me as fanciful.

    Also, creating a “late night district” would be a legal and logistical nightmare. It’s not an easy feat to give special treatment to businesses in one particular geographical area — even if the cumbersome regulatory hurdles could be surmounted, it would potentially be open to a court challenge by other restaurateurs outside of that zone.

    Although the Kenmore Square of your memories had the same hours as today’s clubs, you are correct that it had more late night diners and a “party” atmosphere that drew folks from other neighborhoods. But you may remember also it was a hotbed of crime and violence — fights every weekend in front of Narcissus, etc. And the residents of the Fenway and Kenmore were tormented by the noise there.

    I’m not making this up — I was one of the kids playing punk rock music at the Rat amidst the sleazy Kenmore Square of the day.

    Finally, the last time Boston tried to create a special “zone” for certain activities it created an epidemic of crime that persists to these days.

    I understand that you are not alone in believing that Boston should be more like New York, but I’m not sure it would help a bit with this problem if it were.

    If we are on the same page as far as wanting a quieter neighborhood, hopefully we can agree on simple, ready, and concrete steps.

    1. Good points Alex, and I will drop it after this, but just a few things:

      1. I agree that having bars open past 2 will never happen in Boston, at least in the near future, so it’s better to just drop it.
      2. I am talking about other places being open. Diners, for example. Pizzerias. When I was 17 I would hang out at the pool halls and bowling alley in Kenmore Square and then go to the Deli Haus (sneaking drinks along the way). That meant I was not in the Prado breaking bottles and causing a mess.
      3. Yes, Chinatown is a place where people can go after 2, and many do, but it’s a terrible place to have all of that stuff. There are people above all those restaurants. I am advocating for places that are not near neighbors staying open to give residential neighborhoods some relief. The mayor’s office routinely opposes requests by businesses in Downtown Crossing to serve food past 2. Why? I’m not saying one place serving food down there would fix the problem, but having so few options makes someone’s apartment in the North End all the more appealing at that hour.
      4. I understand that we do not want to create another Combat Zone, but that was specifically for adult-oriented businesses. Of course that was a disaster. I am advocating for hamburgers and pizza, not strip clubs and prostitutes.
      5. This is the big one: I am not saying Boston should be more like New York. I am saying it should be more like EVERY OTHER major city in America. I think that many Bostonians who don’t travel much think that New York is the outlier, and Boston, where everything closes by 1 or 2, is normal. That is not the case. Literally every other city I have been to, regardless of when the bars close (generally 2), has places to go afterwards. It siphons people out of the bars, into other enclosed businesses, where they can stay until they are ready to go home, and sober up. Boston is unique in not having that outlet, and it also has way more people complaining about what happens at 2 than any other city in America. If you believe that’s a coincidence, I think you’re being fanciful 🙂

  5. Couple added notes:

    I had two drunk 20-something women having a loud conversation under my bedroom window at 3:15 AM this weekend. When I told them to shut up, one of the girls retorted w/…”You shut-up, this is the North End”…as if the North End is the place to have drunken, loud conversations at 3:AM.

    Cafe Pompeii is the eating destination for after hour drunks and it’s a huge issue. People congregate on the block from 2:00-3:00 AM. Cars radios are played at deafening levels and the pizza boxes and other half filled food containers people take away from the Pompeii can be seen on the steps of Sovereign Bank every Saturday and Sunday morning. It’s disgusting.

    1. This gets to my point exactly. We have closed all of the places to be after 2 throughout most of the city, so that places like the Pompeii end up drawing crowds from near and far, and the North End, just because it is a normal urban neighborhood, with a few late night options, becomes a destination for people from all over the city. A residential neighborhood like this should not be a destination, it should be a place where residents of the neighborhood can get a bite but not the whole city. If we had any actual late night destinations it would take the pressure off of this residential neighborhood to bear an undue burden. The normal response, and what will probably happen in the North End, is that people will get up in arms and force the Pompeii and Bova’s to close at 2. Then a couple of things will happen. 1) some other poor neighborhood will have to deal with all of this and 2) people will spend more time in their apartments eating microwave pizza and waking up the whole building. Boston is conducting an interesting experiment: what happens if you do everything you can to force people to go home at 2, will they? I think the experience in the North End is evidence that they won’t. Instead they’ll be out on the street and in their friends’ apartments. I’d much rather have them in the Seaport or Downtown Crossing, where they won’t wake anyone up. Think about it: These people are not at bars in the North End (there aren’t really any true bars left). They are downtown somewhere. In a normal city, they would get a bite to eat near the bars when they closed. But here, the bars close, everything downtown is closed, and people flock to the North End because something is open.

  6. Not true…Florentine is a “bar” after 10PM…so is Bricco…so is Lucca…so is the Waterfront Cafe….keeping places open later is not the answer. Do people think people can’t get drunk at a restaurant? Places in a residential neighborhood should not serve food after 2AM…that’s how you end this.

    I have no sympathy if people need to microwave after 2AM. At least they are off the street. The North End has quickly become Allston/Brighton on weekends.

  7. Hey, you push for whatever you want, and I wish you the best. But next time your neighbor and his/her friends wake you up at 3 AM, ask yourself: why does the city that shuts down earlier than every place else in the country also have the worst neighborhood tensions over this issue? Why has this issue gotten worse as the city has systematically rolled back closing hours for late night businesses? They are clearly linked. Everyone who studies this kind of thing says they’re linked, and it’s just neighborhood activists and the mayor who don’t get it.

    Also, just so I am clear about my microwave comment: When I lived on Tileston Street about 10 years ago, my biggest noise issue was young people in my building coming home with friends at 2 AM to eat and drink and continue hanging out. They woke me up routinely, and boy did I ever wish there was someplace else, besides a residential building, where they could be at that hour. But there wasn’t, because virtually everything was closed. When I lived in New York, I never, repeat NEVER had this issue, because people were at bars at that hour, not on the floor above me with all of their friends.

    So, I am sure that you and your cohorts will be successful in rolling back the hours of food service in the North End. The mayor loves that kind of thing, and always supports it. But it will make the problem worse. Even the Mighty Mayor Menino does not have the power to tell people when they have to go to bed, and there will never be enough police to respond to every noise complaint. You are working against yourself, despite the reams of evidence that your approach does not work. The more we shut down businesses who want to cater to a late night crowd, the more we force that crowd out on the streets and into the few businesses that are left that are open then, and the worse the problem becomes. We need a new approach, and you are just sticking your head in the sand if you don’t see it.

  8. So they came in to the building quiet as a mouse after they filled their bellies somewhere else at 3AM?

    Seems to me you just push the noise to a later time after they have eaten.

    I hate when people compare NY to Boston. This isn’t NY and Boston should not try to be. What the North End has become is no less than Allston-Brighton on weekends.

    But that’s what’s going to happen…people who actually have to get up and work for a living will move out and the place will be 70% people under 30…who are transients and don’t care what the neighborhood looks or sounds like. They have no investment in the streets or buildings. So they trash them.

  9. Come on, John, that was a cheap shot. I am not “comparing NY to Boston.” Nor am I saying that Boston should try to be anything like NY. Don’t write off an idea just because I used the dreaded name of the big city.

    Boston should be Boston. Boston has a problem. That problem exists on a scale here that is unmatched anywhere else. Boston is unique in not allowing businesses of any kind to be open after 2, except in increasingly rare instances. A rational person may conclude that these facts are related. I grew up in Boston, and am a Bostonian. It just so happens that the only other place I have lived is New York. It is valid to compare an experience there to my experience here, so I did it.

    You, it is becoming increasingly clear, are not a rational person. You are blaming everything on the young whippersnappers. What’s next, “back in my day we had respect for authority, dagnabbit”? Did you walk to school in 3 feet of snow, too?

    So keep spouting off about them darn kids all you want. Maybe the problem will eventually get big enough that you can open your provincial eyes and acknowledge that our unique problem (noise) and our unique laws (force every young person onto the streets and into a few businesses at 2 all across the city) may be related. And maybe, just maybe, that will be the day when you can listen to an argument and judge it on its merits, rather than writing it off because it is new, or includes the words New York.

  10. I totally understand what’s happening. I just don’t think keeping places open later will help a late night problem. Just my opinion.

    Nor do I think giving out more liquor licenses will help the drunk reveler issue.

    And I will admit that I did the exact same thing when I came out of bars at 2AM…but I did it in Chinatown. I don’t think moving the problem to other parts of the city will prevent it from happening in the NE. Gotta try and enforce the issue here.

    But it really will solve itself in 10-15 years when no self respecting person will want to live here any longer. As buildings get more and more absentee landlords when long time NEers sell, the new owners won’t care about noise as long as they get their checks every month.

  11. I personally think that you both have valid points.
    I think that if you are going to legislate some vague notion that there should be a limit to how late a business should stay open, then do it across the board. Why should the city/state decide when I have to stop drinking, but not when I have to stop eating? What is the logic? Make all businesses close at two and the problem just becomes people going home and crashing or partying at home. That is not going to change.At least the mayhem in the streets is reduced to 2:00-3:00. With places like Bovas and Pompeii (nothing against them personally) open until all hours, the insanity in the streets is just prolonged.
    Imagine if, on the other hand, you let ALL businesses stay open until whenever they please, I think everything reaches an equilibrium over time and the ruckus becomes much more subdued and spread out between say midnight and 5:00AM and over a much larger area of the city (not just the North End or Chinatown or wherever food is served “after hours”). The mad rush to get drunk before closing goes away and becomes less frenzied and spread out in time and the choices of where to get food are far more spread out in location. It also means that people probably tend to be more “tapped out” by the time they go home and are far less likely to party at home.
    I personally prefer the second option, not because we should want to be like New York City, but because it seems more logical and reduces the concentration of the issues, both time and location-wise.
    Just my $0.02, and worth every penny.

  12. Bova’s and Pompei were grandfathered in and allowed to keep the later hours. HOWEVER….t thought Bova’s was not supposed to be selling anything other than bread and pastry (not pizza,subs and calzones) after 1AM. BTW…the city and state have every right to set the time when businesses can operate.
    No matter what the closing hour, there is a mad rush to get drunk just before closing even in NY where the bars are open until 4AM. People in NY dont even go out until midnight. If you let everyone “stay open until whenever they pleased, 99% of them will stay open all night because someone else stays open all night and is making money. That argument is pure BS. that’s my 5 cents worth.

  13. To be clear, I was never saying that everywhere should be open whenever they want. In fact I think it’s crazy that Bova’s is open all night. But I do think that there are neighborhoods where it would be appropriate to have lots of things open all night. The mayor wants young people living in the Innovation District. Fill it with small apartments and all night diners and all of the young people driving you crazy will flee the North End in droves and leave you in peace.

  14. Thanks for clarifying, but I never questioned whether the States and Cities have the right to set closing times. If you read what I wrote, what I am questioning is the logic and consistency in *what* they regulate and the times set for doing so.
    I’m just advocating consistency. That you either shut it all down or leave it all open. Close it all down at 2:00 or leave it all open until 4:00, 5:00, whatever.
    Closing all bars at 2:00AM but allowing selected other businesses to stay open clearly leads to drunken pilgrimages to those select locations and the ensuing horror shows that we see taking place every weekend morning in our beloved neighborhood – and that is not working for any of us.

  15. Guys,

    I’ll confess it’s frustrating to have spent the time writing this letter, and trying to conceretely help the neighborhood, and what I am seeing in this board is an debate over an issue that is purely academic.

    No disrespect is intended, but if we want a safer, quieter neighborhood, we need to work together to encourage a stronger police presence and to ask for courtesy from our landlords and fellow residents.

    I would as your concrete support on that. I have received NO official response from anyone to my letter. One way to help is if you take the time to call or write officials asking them for action.

    Thank you.

    Alex Hahn

    1. I appreciate and understand your frustration, but this is not purely academic. The city has been getting increasingly unruly, and I believe it is because there are not enough places for people of all ages to go and legally have fun. I am advocating that we as voters, as part of an effort to decrease unruliness, demand that the city take a holistic approach to solving this issue, which includes more permissive licensing in non-residential neighborhoods, to draw some of this activity away from our homes.

      1. AlexMMMMMMM….this debate we have been having HAS NOTHING TO DO with the original post which was about UNDERAGE DRINKING IN THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND AND THE PRADO among other places. So Alexhahn…I will refrain from any more replys that are not on your subject. Hopefully others will also give it a rest about party zones and late night hours. ..which is a nice fantasy but not going to happen.

        AlexHahn….FYI… I have called official people year after year after year after year about underage drinking and partying and found it to be an exercise in mental masturbation. Got sick of hearing “Things are worse in Charlestown”, “Things are worse at the Caribbean festival”, “this is the first time we have heard of this” etc etc . Waiting for the new Captain to show me that things will be different. I no longer waste my time, energy or breath . I live near the flights so I sympathize with your frustration. Can hardly wait to see what happens this weekend.

        1. HI, Joyce — I am happy to give you a preliminary update. I have spoken to Traci Griffith at the Eliot School and discussions are underway with her and her supervisor concerning specific ways to address this problem of kids in the playground.

          I appreciate your response. I am here help achieve specific results for our community through concrete action.


  16. OK, I’ll draw the connection for you AGAIN, and make it EVEN clearer…eh nevermind. Good luck convincing everyone of every age that they should not want to have a good time. It’s worked so well I think we should just double down on that approach. Joyce and Alex and John are right, evidence and logical reasoning be damned!

  17. Alex Hahn,

    What are some of the preliminary talks with the principal mentioning in terms of solutions to the issue at hand? Video cameras?

    Much obliged,

  18. I thought there was a video that scans (at least part of) the school yard.

    If the lighting is right, it might have caught something over the last few months (or years!).

  19. I am not sure a video camera in the school yard will accomplish much. First …many, though not all, of the kids are from out of town (as was the case of the recent Prado incident) so who will know their identity? Second….when the kids see the camera, there is a 99% proability they will break it, cover it, or direct it away from where they party. (The lights in the flights of the gassy seem to get broken again just about as soon as they get fixed). Locking the gate should help. An increased police presence (like the cop on Hanover St actually patrolling and dispersing the kids instead of giving out parking tickets all night) and added patrols of the “hot spots” would go along way in improving the out of control Underage drinking.

  20. Joyce,

    Do you think additional lighting at the Eliot won’t be much help based on what happens to the lights at the flights? I wonder if adding some type of motion sensing light would be of any benefit. Then again, there’s probably a cost issue associated as well.


    1. Did you read the update that AlexH posted? I do not know about the added lights. That is something the school has to decide. Given the move of several classrooms to the NBSS, I think Traci has her hands full right now and she is going to have the gate locked as a start. The Eliot school is but one of several drinking spots for the under 21 set. Increased police patrols and perhaps arresting some of these kids might improve things. Drinking is a right of passage and we all did it. The difference is that if I got caught , there was a trip to the police station, a call to our parents, an encounter with a wooden spoon, a loss of privileges and being grounded for weeks and heaven help the older kid who got the alcohol for us or the store that sold it to one of us.

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