Boston City Council hearing on the proposed Nuisance Control ordinance. From the left, Councilors Mark Ciommo, Matt O’Malley and Sal LaMattina. (City of Boston video)

Boston’s City Council listened to resident feedback to a proposed Nuisance Control Ordinance, sponsored by the North End’s City Councilor, Sal LaMattina. (Video of the full hearing on October 25, 2012 can be viewed at the City Council Video Library, Docket #1052.)

With the exception of two young citizens in the music industry, all of the testimony heard at the hearing was in favor of the ordinance to address “harm and disturbances caused by unruly gatherings” in the Boston neighborhoods.

The nuisance ordinance filing is directly related to complaints from North End residents regarding loud parties. Ironically, the hearing was shortly before the Halloween holiday weekend when several loud party calls were logged by North Enders regarding rooftop parties.

According to sponsor LaMattina, “The goal of the ordinance is to create an ongoing dialogue between Boston Police, the City Agencies, property owners, tenants and when necessary, educational institutions. This ordinance does not prevent social gatherings nor does it discriminate against students and responsible absentee landlords.”

Noise and loud party complaints have become legendary in the densely populated North End, primarily attributed to college students and young professionals. In the proposed nuisance control ordinance, the first offense would likely be met only with a warning but a fine can also be imposed of $100. For the second and subsequent violations within one year, the penalty is $300 per incident. Details on how the fines would be collected are yet to be determined. The current noise ordinance on the books is based on decibel levels and only provides for a warning after a third violation.

Captain Thomas Lee of Boston Police District A-1 testified in favor of the ordinance, saying “We thank the North End residents that have brought up the need for this ordinance. Most of the complaints there are regarding these quality of life issues. We are not looking to punish landlords. We will look for fair enforcement and believe this is a good step forward.” BPD Seargant Tom Lema also spoke in support of the proposed ordinance, “The missing link is the landlords. This adds some teeth to what we are already doing.”

The North End’s State Representative Aaron Michlewitz testified at the hearing. “There are too many times when landlords ignore all signs of trouble, police and neighbors. The only way we are going to get the attention of these property owners is to hit them in the pocketbook,” he said.

City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley also came out in favor of the proposed ordinance saying at the hearing, “We are not anti-business or against higher learning institutions. We are pro-community. It’s all about being a good neighbor.” Chair of the Government Relations Committee, Councilor Matt O’Malley also voiced his support for the ordinance as did Mission Hill District Councilor Mike Ross.

A representative from an Allston – Brighton community organization spoke strongly in favor of the proposed nuisance control ordinance. “You don’t get fined if you are a reasonable landlord and are participating in the process.”

Anne M. Pistorio, a 26-year North End resident and landlord testified at the hearing that she tells her tenants, “If you like to party, this is not the place for you. Absentee landlords are the biggest problem on my street.”

Angela Aquilino, a longtime North End resident said, “It is not unusual to be hit with lit cigarettes and sprayed with urine coming from rooftops along with beer cans and bottles. It is hazardous to people. We have many elderly still living in the North End and many new young families that have moved in and want to stay. If this is the way, they will head for the hills.” She added, “most students and young professionals residents have grown up in the leafy suburbs. They are not used to living in the city and a tight neighborhood. They need to be educated.”

North Ender Marie Montemarano testified, “The North End has become like Sodom and Gomorrah and the village of the damned at once.” She reiterated problems of public urination and sex on rooftops and doorways. “They are throwing beer bottles at police. We are completely out of hand here. We’ve had 20 years of warnings. It’s gotta be a fine, immediately,” she said.

Janet Gilardi from Fulton Street spoke of problems with vomit in doorways and the noise at night. “It’s like they are in my bedroom. It’s horrible.” She added, “These absentee landlords don’t even tell them the rules. Maybe hurting them in the pocket is worth a try. I’m not against the students. Their mothers should be sending me roses every week for correcting them.”

One Charter Street resident said, “I just expect not to sleep on a Friday and Saturday night. I’ve talked to the landlords. It doesn’t matter. They party all night long.”

Alex Hahn, North End resident and landlord, said every one of his Lewis Street tenants has to sign a document to keep the noise down. He also asked for the police to be more aggressive regarding enforcement.

A music editor, Liz Pelly, spoke against the proposed ordinance, saying she lives with musicians that make noise. She said that communication is important with neighbors. She added that there is no alcohol in her house. They have elderly neighbors that call them when it gets too loud. “Noise doesn’t always mean unruly,” she told the Council.

Ethan Long, a former resident of the North End on Thacher Street and Suffolk University student, said he lives with six people in Allston, recently moving into a building labeled as “band friendly.” Yet, they received a noise complaint at 7 pm in the first week.

Long is concerned that police often “marginalize and harass” young people because of stereotypes. He said the band Aerosmith practiced on Commonwealth Avenue and “made tons of noise.” He added, “Music is part of the culture. We need public spaces to perform our art in a safe manner.”

Business owner and North End resident, Mark Petrigno, said “I’m a musician too, but ‘noise’ is ‘noise’ at 4:30 am. It’s so out of control. I hope this (nuisance control ordinance) is the beginning of something good.”

Councilor LaMattina, sponsor and author of the Nuisance Control Ordinance, ended the hearing by saying, “I hate to be the bad guy (with the fines in the proposed ordinance), but I’ve been a good guy for too long and it didn’t work.”

The next step is a working session with Boston Police and Inspectional Services to establish procedures and ensure payment, similar to the Green Ticket Law where fines are added to property tax bills. Subsequently, the City Council can vote on the ordinance that would need the Mayor’s signature before going into effect.

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13 COMMENTS

    • I almost spit out my milk even through I wasn’t even drinking any when I read that. I mean coming from a family of Boston Police officers I have all the respect in the world for the police but I mean come on Marie lets not stereotype every single college student or young professional because of a few bad apples

    • The exact same over-the-top comments have been posted repeatedly on this very site, usually by someone with a broken caps lock key.

      • I’m not sure where the stereotyping is here. young or old have the same responsibility to be good neighbors. the fines go to those causing problems and the landlords regardless of age

      • THERE ARE NO BROKEN CAP LOCKS, THERE
        IS A LOT OF FRUSTRATION AND RIGHTFULLY SO,
        OVER 20 YEARS OF CRYING OUT FOR HELP ON
        DEAF EARS IS NO JOKE.

        I AM NOT LEAVING MY NEIGHBORHOOD, I WILL
        FIGHT TO THE BITTER END & IF BEACON HILL
        GOT RID OF THESE DISRESPECTFUL PEOPLE,
        WE CAN TOO.

        THERE ARE PLENTY OF PEOPLE WHO FEEL THE
        WAY I DO, THEY JUST WANT PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF
        TO DO THE WORK FOR THEM.

        THERE IS A SOLUTION TO EVERY PROBLEM AND
        WE NEED THE POLICE TO ENFORCE THE LAWS
        AND ISSUE THE FINES, AND BRING DOWN THE
        DOGS. I WITNESSED WHAT DOGS CAN DO, AND
        THIS NEIGHBORHOOD NEEDS EVERY POLICE
        DOG THAT IS AVAILABLE.

    • NO, IT IS NOT EXTREME, THEY ARE HAVING
      SEX IN THE DOORWAYS OF APT. BUILDINGS AND
      THEY ARE URINATING OFF ROOFTOPS AND
      DOORWAYS & THROWING BEER BOTTLES AT
      OUR POLICE. THERE IS NO RESPECT FOR THE
      RESIDENTS AND THEY THROW THEIR TRASH OUT
      WHEN EVER THEY WANT. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
      THE ENDLESS SCREAMING & YELLING, BOTTLES
      OF LIQUOR ALL OVER OUR STREETS.
      SODOM & GOMMORAH & THE VILLAGE OF THE
      DAMNED MIGHT BE A COMPLIMENT AT THIS STAGE
      OF THE GAME.

  1. I can’t remember the city, but I remember studying a similar case in law school and fining the landlords was found to be illegal when challenged in court. The thought is basically if your a landlord providing your tenants with an apartment that is up to code and you are performing annual inspections, then that is all you are required to do. A lot of the large apartment management companies challenged the ordinance and won. There is nothing illegal about being an absentee landlord. If the city makes it difficult to buy apartments as investment properties, then property values will decrease if the landlord is forced to be a babysitter.

    • The value of property will decrease because of the
      disrespectful students and late visitors from outside the
      Neighborhood causing chaos. Absentee landlords
      think of their property as Cash Cows, they have no
      regard for the residents who live here.
      The City should crack down on some of these absentee
      landlords because some of these properties look like
      condemned buildings, and that is why they make it
      accessible for students to rent. If absentee landlords
      took better care of their properties it would be much
      more appealing for Mature Professionals to want to
      live here. Sleep is essential and no residents wants to
      be up all night because of loud music and party people.
      The neighborhood is completely out of control and our
      cries have been falling on deaf ears for too many years, .
      and the resolutiion is to fine those creating chaos and for
      those who are supplying them with an apt. that allows
      this behavior.

  2. Laws were made & laws will be revised, if they can benefit and improve any
    situation. I, along with other residents have no
    intentions of leaving this community, and we never lived
    under such deplorable conditions and why should we
    live like this now. Absentee Landlords, are our biggest
    problem. One of the Real Estate people rented to
    a man who wanted to blow up the Zakim Bridge, and I
    don’t know about you, but I consider this a serious
    problem, fortunately the FBI was able to get this guy
    before he did such an act.

  3. It is interesting that a lot of people think students are able to rent in the North End because it is affordable to rent apartments in neglected buildings. The sad truth is that some of the worst apartments in the North End still pull in a premium amount for rent. AND the people that can afford to pay sky high amounts for rents are the young students, because they are paying it with school loans!

    My boyfriend and I, who just graduated from law school, recently had to move out of the North End since we could no longer afford to pay almost $2000 a month for a tiny apartment, since we were not longer receiving school loans to help pay rent.

    My point is that raising the rent in the North End is only contributing to the problem. People do not want to spend their hard earned money paying high rent for a place that is small and outdated. If the North End wants to attract more people who are responsible and respectful adults, I think lowering rents would better accomplish this.

  4. I hope the police start issuing fines for those people driving around in their cars with radios full
    blast after midnight going into early morning hours with no regard for residents. If they issue
    fines in Hyannis for blasting radios at 5 p.m., Boston can do the same. We do have doctors and
    nurses who are not on M-F 9 – 5 Schedules and I am sure their sleep is interrupted. Hyannis
    has been issuing $50. fines for blasting car radios for over 25 years.

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