Health & Environment

The North End is the Calcutta of Boston

Calcutta you ask? NO, North Street!

This is the direct result of:

1) Trash allowed on the streets overnight.
2) Absentee landlords that are not training their tenants.
3) Residents that do not take pride in their neighborhood.
4) Trash collectors (paid with our tax dollars) flinging open bags and not picking up the remains.
5) DPW and ISD not working together to solve the issues and enforce compliance.

The results are devastating to the well being of our wonderful neighborhood. We are one of the most popular destinations in the country. Our financial contribution to this city is crucial and beyond the revenue of most any other neighborhood.

The residents of the North End put up with droves of tourists all year. Responsible property owners remain diligent. Business owners are encouraged to clean in front of their businesses and do.

We deserve and, at this point, demand the highest support and attention from our city officials. This is a health emergency and quality of life situation that cannot be ignored any longer!!!!!

We have over 800 signatures of North End residents and the support of the North End Chamber of Commerce demanding the City to change their trash policies by NEVER allowing trash on our streets overnight.

39 Replies to “The North End is the Calcutta of Boston

  1. Toni. Thank you for bringing the issue to our attention once again. When I moved to the North End, my very first impression was the garbage and paper in the streets and gutters. After 15 years here, one would think I’d be oblivious, but no! Today on Salem Street, a vacant parking space was strewn with bits of paper and plenty of “squashed garbage”. Thank you for bringing this subject to our attention.

  2. How about street sweeping during the winter months instead of assuming it’s all the overnight trash? I’m sure the streets would look like this in the spring/summer/fall if we went months without street sweeping then, too! It makes sense not to have the street sweepers going when there’s snow on the ground…but while we have had quite a cold winter thus far, we really haven’t had that much snow.

  3. During the months that there are no mechanical street sweepers, there should be City of Boston workers out there manually sweeping our streets. The North End streets are a disgrace and filthy. Street gutters are filled with papers, cups, lottery tickets,dog poop bags, etc. We pay enough high taxes to live in the City of Boston and our streets should look presentable especially in a neighborhood like the North End that is visited by hundreds of tourists each and every month.. Landlords and business owners should do their part by keeping their property cleaned at all times..

    1. And when the street sweeper operator is sitting in the machine for 20+ minutes on their phone while the tow trucks pull cars off the street, they should be sweeping up the items which the sweeper doesn’t pick up.

    2. True Value manager on Salem is out there every morning sweeping up the debris in front of his store. Admirable.

  4. Y do u need to feel like the landlord needs to babysit the tenant i think a tenant is someone over 18 i hope they should know better

    1. A notice i.e. gentle reminder posted within the entrance of each building concerning City of Boston standards would greatly enhance quality of life in our neighborhood. Owners and tenants do not always know better. —Are you listening realtors?

  5. Whoa! comparing the North End to Calcutta is an extreme exaggeration don’t you think? I am curious as to why nobody is asking that the property owners or condo associations to step up to the plate and clean the gutters themselves. After all it is the trash from their tenants/owners that is at least part of the problem. I would think they make enough money to hire someone to sweep the sidewalks and gutters in front of their property if they do not want to do it themselves.

  6. Brava on the first step of the petition. My hat is off to all who signed it. That is an impressive number. When you calculate your next step, count me in. I’d like to help encourage action among my neighbors whom I’m guessing also did not have a chance to sign. You’ve found voice in 700 strong. Yes! I suspect you will need to sound off again. Squeaky wheels rarely are effective if they stop squeaking before they get results. Please do let us know how we can keep the pressure on.

    1. People should not be allowed to leave trash out on the street before 5AM. That would go a LONG way in solving this problem. People who work nights will just have to figure it out. Nothing else is working and nothing else WILL work.

      1. The trash pickers will just adjust to the schedule so there will still be open bags everywhere starting at 5 AM instead of 5 PM. The only way to stop the problem is to eliminate the bottle deposit and the incentive for people to rip bags open to get to the cash generators. Been telling this to which ever City Councilor the North End has had for at least 15 years.

  7. People only get away with what you allow them to get away with. Unfortunately the absentee
    landlords/slumlords only think of their properties as “CASH COWS” and obviously they could
    careless about what their tenants do. We have never been informed as to who these Absentee
    Landlords/Slumlords are, and let us also face the reality that these fines are NOT that
    effective, because we would not be going thru this for over 20 years. The amount of these fines
    are a joke, hit them hard in the pocket, forget this fine that goes against their real estate taxes.
    and let us start naming these slumlords on the social media & local news papers as well.
    There is a solution to everything in life, but unless the City & State step up to the plate this will
    be a losing battle. Those of us who consider this Neighborhood our HOMES are doing everything
    to preserve it, and those that are passing thru have no Respect for the Neighborhood and think
    of the North End as Partyville. Nobody wants to babysit their tenants, but I can tell you 1
    thing, it could NEVER happen in my property. The City should FORCE all ABSENTEE landlords
    to have cameras if this is constantly going on in the same areas of the No. End. Where there is

  8. The North End has been compared to Calcutta before – in reference to its population density circa 1920 (the number of people per square mile was estimated at 40,000, more or less equal to that of Calcutta at the time). This famous observation was made after the bulk of the tenement apartments had been built (multi-use buildings, with commercial space on the ground floor and usually four or five stories of “cold-water” apartments above). This type of speculative development transformed the neighborhood and nearly doubled the population between 1880 and 1930. Plaques cemented into the facades of many of the buildings reveal that they were built at this time.
    Maybe since there was a Boston-Calcutta shipping route (think “Ice King”), 19th century citizens of Boston knew what they were talking about when they compared the two cities. The choice of Calcutta also might have been in reference to the “foreign” nature of the immigrants largely populating the district, primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe, since many Boston Yankee charitable missions had more success in British India than they did in the North End. New York was also similarly – and unfavorably – compared to Calcutta at this time.
    In light of the gentrification of this area in recent decades, there’s really no excuse for the kind of filth that Toni documents on North End streets. To be honest, having grown up in this area, certain parts of the neighborhood today seem cleaner – there are far fewer cigarette butts and piles of dog waste than there were, say, twenty years ago (that latter statistic particularly impressive given that there now appear to be more dogs). When you are a kid, you notice such things! But ever since one of our long-time neighbors sold his building to a real estate developer, we have been getting ticketed for trash. As a multi-generational North End family, we know the rules, but the students renting next door from semester to semester often place trash in front of our house in the tree bed on days when there’s no pick-up, so we are the ones getting fined. I am really tired of fighting City Hall on this issue, and wonder if the huge bins that they use on the streets in many European cities could help with this situation – then again, looking at images of these bins, like those on the community blog, perhaps not.

    1. Well spoken, Jessica! — I might add also that perhaps stiff fines and enforcement particularly on weekends would improve the situation.

      1. I think part of the issue that she mentioned was that she was getting fined because someone was putting their trash in front of her place. The issue with enforcing stiff fines is that they are being issued against the wrong people in some cases. There is nothing more frustrating than coming home on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday night and seeing a bag of trash in front of your house and a trash ticket on the door. You’d almost need a surveillance system to monitor trash disposal. Problem is, for small condo associations this is an expensive proposition. Years ago, the City had a rebate program to encourage property owners to updated their drainpipe back flow valve. This would relieve some of the cost of home owners and reduce flooding problems. Maybe the City could arrange such a program to help home owners monitor trash disposal issues, particularly when the trash comes from another building.

        1. My personal observation is that inspectors literally tear open reported inappropriately placed trash bags — “locate” a name and address then write out the green ticket. If a ticket is proven to be wrongly issued–it can be appealed.

          1. Sometimes they don’t do that and many of the trash depositors are on to that and don’t include ID. I have checked this trash also and have found nothing but garbage.

        2. I agree 100% with what Another Opinion has written. I have had this problem too. And in my case, there was a name and address (not mine) on the garbage: and I STILL got the ticket. Having to write appeal letters to the City on a weekly or biweekly basis because of something someone else is doing is not a reasonable solution and adds an additional (and much more time consuming) burden on top of having to repeatedly clean up someone else’s trash.

  9. Sorry to say my neighborhood looks the same way,East Boston,for years I have called City Hall complaining. Nothing done.When I was 18 the city had jobs,called the red shirts these people walk up and down every street with a broom,gloves wheel bucket and THIS WAS NOT A SUMMER JOB,AND WE GOT PAID WELL..Today they call this job Public Works,and no no one walks around cleaning….A lost battle!!!!

  10. when I grew up in the north end during the late 50s , 60s and 70s. everyone always swept their own sidewalk or the next buildings and swept the gutters also.. we all took care of each others .. in the spring the bleach or sifanata would come out and the stairs and sidewalks were always washed on Saturdays.. or Fridays.. going down cross st there was the crab man and on salem st the periwinkle lady.. us kids would buy crabs and eat periwinkles and the flys would come out of the woodwork.. we enjoyed our crabs and periwinkles and had to clean up the mess and bleach out were we were eating them.. I can remember in the warm weather tenants sweeping the st at night making a pile of trash and burning it which was probally illegal but one thing the north ends tenants took pride in the neighborhood.. we didn’t rely on no one but us to keep it clean! yeah I know the north end is not the old north end it is today but it seems to me only original northenders take the pride in trying to keep the north end clean..

    1. I agree with everything you said sifanata was the choice of street cleaning today very few take pride in their streets it’s not the tourists it’s the absentee landlords along with those that do live and own their property. That north street scene of the filt is there everyday I can’t believe the property owner would not take a broom to the filt.

    2. Joann – I strongly disagree that only the original north enders take pride in keeping the neighborhood clean. It’s simply not true.

  11. as much as i try to keep the front of my building clean. i always find trash that was blown up or down the street from the wind. i’ve found papers with addresses five to six buildings away. as a landlord i clean in front of my building. i have barrels for trash. our taxes are going up, but are definitly not spent in the north end. bring back the workers to walk the streets and clean the trash. not just hanover and salem st either. as far as the trash pickup. nothing will change as far as people putting it out whenever they want. not following the rules. i see it every day. people walk out of a building and drop a bag in front of any building they choose. if you want to know who owns a building go to boston you can look up an address to see the owners. not to start a war but how about having the capable unemployed earn welfare/ebt benefits by cleaning the streets. just a thought. let them earn the 50k in bennies!

  12. First and foremost, all trash should go into lidded barrels. If you spend any time in any larger, congested European cities, that is the way it is done (many cities here, as well – Lynn, for example). By eliminating bags on the street, you can then allow the barrels to be placed out at 7 or 8 the night before, as long as they are the proper type of container. If not, fine the building owners (heavily) – they will make sure their tenants comply after a few large fines. This has to be done, not only from an asthetic point of view, but also from a vermin control POV, as well….

    1. And people w/ tiny apt w/ no storage area would store these barrels…where, exactly? Large fines aren’t going to happen. Large fines would alleviate a lot of the current problems we have now without using barrels but no one is willing to put forward a bill that fines a landlord $1000 for the first offense.

      1. I know this comment will not sit well with some “original”‘ North Enders but people here are being mislead with stories & anecdotes of how clean this neighborhood once was compared to today.Yes some people washed the stairs & sidewalks & you could smell sifinata as well as the aroma of home made wine from the cellars in the neighborhood. But the truth of the matter is the NE has always been dirty especially Salem St with the decaying fruit & vegetables left on the ground from the many pushcarts & street vendors.If anything the neighborhood is cleaner then it once was especially the Fulton St & waterfront area where the water rats where as big as small dogs & the stench of the rabbit & chicken factories would gag you.Sure there is still a problem & lidded barrels & containers would help immensely.Of course some people would object but you cant have it both ways its the only sensible solution to he problem of trash.

        1. Not that I disagree, but I only have one question: where are these lidded barrels going to be stored? Some buildings might have the storage space in a basement, but I would venture a guess that the majority of buildings in this neighborhood do not have storage space for large lidded barrels for all the apartments in each building.

        2. Michaeld, it sounds like you might be some years older than I am, but your recollections match my own childhood impressions of the North End. I was one of the first generation of children on Fulton Street following its redevelopment in the mid-1970’s – it was right around the corner from my grandfather’s tavern, “Nick’s “- and remember that a few of the buildings still functioned into the 1980’s as factories or warehouses. It was always fun to go see the live chickens in the coops across the street (n. 112), except for when they were slaughtered and the sticky blood and feathers ran into the gutter! I think the place was called Menorah Products, or something like that, since a rabbi came in regularly to certify that they were kosher. Yet other structures on Fulton were abandoned or semi-abandoned at the time and filled with trash and rubble as a result of arson or a partial demolition. It was an interesting place for a very young child to live in, but perhaps somewhat toxic and smelly as well with all the debris. The wharves and parks were dotted with rat holes, the sand box in the Columbus tot lot was an ashtray, and it became a sort of game for kids to skip over dog feces in the alleys. Most of these features no longer exist, like the rotting produce and animal skins outside of the shop doors on Salem, which you also describe. Yet the memories of such sights and smells do not bother me as much as finding liquor bottles on our doorstep today or open trash bags spilling into the gutter on a weekly if not thrice-weekly basis. Even the rats don’t seem to go near such a revolting sight!

  13. Jessica, first of all thanks for replying . My comments were in response to posts that suggest that the trah problems started with the changeover & only North End residents take pride in their neighborhood & thats just not true.Many of the NE residents were [as you well know]immigrants & brought a part of the old country traditions like making homemade wine & devoting a day usually Saturday to cleaning stairs & sidewalks. to their new country.Those traditions sadly died with most of the people who performed them.Look at this sites real estate section people who pay $345,000 or &445,000 for a unit that people once paid $25 $50 or $ 75 A month aren’t going to come out with a bucket of Sifinata & a brush & start cleaning.The NE as we new it is dead & is not coming back & some people still refuse to bury the corpse.Most of the problems here are the result of greed & money with dozens of bars,restaurants ,cafés and places where people can come to to grab something to eat after the bars spill out.There is plenty of blame to go around about the trash issue absentee landlords & landlords who don’t upkeep their property are a major contributor to the problem.

  14. so tenants who rent from a landlord have no accountability to the mess they leave behind. whether original or new comer. how about holding the offenders responsible.

  15. mc, of course the offenders should be held responsible but that is easier said then done.You cant expect the average resident to become a member of the trash police & do the work of the landlords & the city of Boston. As far as I know & someone can correct me if I’m wrong there is no law [although there should be} on the books about a person tearing thru trash searching for bottles & cans & perhaps peoples identities.The city touts the NE to tourists & visitors for their money of course but in the year of 2014 still does not provide bathroom facilities for them so I don’t have any faith in this city solving any problems.

    1. One of the Area A police captains (forgot which one) said at a Public Safety meeting that once the bags are outside, there is no law they can use to stop someone from searching through them for deposit bottles, identity information, or anything else.

      1. Once the bags are placed on the street they are considered to be public property, as you don’t own the sidewalk, so anyone can go in the bags.

    2. not looking for them to be trash police, but come on. this is you’re home. even for a short time. have these peple no pride. i’m not talking about people ripping open the bags, that’s a different problem. i’m talking about tenant’s who just don’t care because they will be gone in a year.

    1. Shouldn’t the owner WANT the sidewalk to be free of snow and filth? If the city won’t do it, each owner needs to take up a broom or shovel and get to work. Have some pride in your property and what it looks like.

      1. To follow up on the issue of no law for people tearing thru trash & rubbish bags for cans & bottles the explanation is that the sidewalk is “public property & you don’t own it” so if thats the case how does someone reserve a parking spot & hold it with a lawn chair for days? They don’t own the street!

      2. john, tell that to the condo owners/renters.not all of them. they are the majority offenders. where are the management companies. i as an owner do clean and shovel my sidewalks. believe me i do have pride in my property. it’s the properties around me that just dont care.

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