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AN ILLEGAL DECK: No Peace at the Peace Garden

(An illegal deck, installed a few feet above the statues and flowers of the Peace Garden at Saint Leonard Church on Hanover Street, has eradicated the serenity of a sanctuary cherished by North Enders and visitors from around the world.)

If asked to identify a special place in the neighborhood where one can momentarily escape the noise and throngs of Hanover Street, most North Enders would immediately cite the Peace Garden at Saint Leonard Church where an open iron gate beckons passersby to pause for a moment of reflection. One does not have to be a Roman Catholic or Christian to appreciate the uniqueness of this sacred space where all are welcome regardless of religious belief.

In the late fall of 2016 a makeshift deck and railing were unlawfully installed on a fire escape atop the rear extension of a ground-level restaurant at 326-328 Hanover Street. Sole access to this illegal deck is gained by crawling through the exterior window of the second-floor apartment within a five-story building whose upper residential floors tower over the garden.

Deck above St. Leonard’s Peace Garden

According to public records, the owner of the building is a real estate trust controlled by a fiduciary residing in Newton. When first apprised of the absentee landlord’s intention to install an illegal deck, a civil and neighborly effort was made by parishioners to reach out to this former North Ender who last lived in the building in the 1950s. The response was dismissive and marked by indifference.

Since late spring as the first signs of warm and sunny weather appeared, the second floor tenants have made regular appearances. At first they casually leaned over the railing, often tugging on a beer bottle and engaged in loud conversation. After lugging lawn furniture through an exterior window, their sunbathing commenced in earnest. Bare chested and boisterous young men, splayed on plastic chairs, have mocked and taunted parishioners and visitors to the garden with vulgar language and sometimes obscene shouts to pedestrians along the sidewalk beyond.

Such behavior has spoiled and defiled this cherished sanctuary lovingly created by an elderly Franciscan friar during the Vietnam War era. One might think that it would be a no-brainer to enlist the enforcement arm of the Boston Inspectional Services Department to halt the use of this unlawful structure which violates a municipal ordinance. But, the ISD inspector — let’s just call him ‘Brian Moxley’ (because that’s the fellow’s name) — assigned to the North End neighborhood has refused to lift a finger despite repeated requests for his intervention. This gentleman was given assurances that he would have the full cooperation of eye witnesses to appear in court with photographic evidence if necessary. He mockingly asserted that it would be embarrassment for him to appear in court on a complaint and that he would then be expected to take similar action “every time there is a pillow cushion or tomato plant blocking a fire escape in the North End … I have responsibility for downtown high-rise buildings, not just the North End. This isn’t in my pay grade.” (Yes, those were his exact words.)

One might recall that the man works for the same city agency that tried to shut down a 45-year old sidewalk produce stand at the corner of Salem and Cooper Streets last summer. (Check out: ) This is the same department which forced a North End business to expend several thousand dollars in repainting a storefront because the building inspector determined that the shade of the color (not the color itself) did not comport with his interpretation of the building permit. These are the same folks that yanked a food license from a local business when they discovered that the beloved proprietor kept a pet cat on the premises.


North Enders are increasingly unable to find affordable housing in their neighborhood; they are being priced out of local parking garages because the city has waived set-aside spaces for the buyers of luxury flats at North Station with deeper pockets; they are being awoken in the middle of the night by the screams and shouts of the inebriated patrons of bar-restaurants that have scored extended closing hours; they are expected to casually surrender their enjoyment of the place they call home and that foreign investors describe as an ‘economic engine’.

When it comes to selective enforcement of municipal codes, you can be certain that ISD has written the text book. It looks the other way whenever the mood strikes it. And, it has been looking the other way while a group of boorish young men scratch their bellies and quaff brews from white plastic lawn chairs overlooking statues of Saint Anthony and the Risen Christ. How bad have things gotten in the North End when even a churchyard shrine is not out-of-bounds for an absentee landlord’s profit margin? Or, when ISD by sheer bureaucratic apathy has allowed an exploitative landowner to literally stack the deck in the despoilment of a place of worship?

If anyone finds this one-more-nail-in-the-North-End-coffin unsettling, at least you can be a good neighbor and call the City of Boston’s hotline (311 or online) to report the presence of an unlawful deck at 326-328 Hanover Street adjacent to the Peace Garden at St. Leonard Church. While you are at it, you might inquire why Inspectional Services has not responded to this violation of a municipal ordinance. Each call gets logged and documented with an online confirmation if requested. Who knows? We might stand a chance. We might have a prayer that someone at City Hall is appalled. But, in the meantime, we might need to look for somewhere else to pray.


From Boston’s North End, Thomas F. Schiavoni writes about neighborhood life and city living.

Correction: The first iteration of this post had the wrong building address (226-228 Hanover Street). This has been corrected to 326-328 Hanover Street.

81 Replies to “AN ILLEGAL DECK: No Peace at the Peace Garden

  1. Incredibly disrespectful. Someone should bring this to the attention of the news stations. I bet ISD would do something then.

  2. Unbelievable that nothing is being done about this. No respect! Thanks for the article, Tom. Hope there is a solution soon.

  3. Tom, Thanks for the article. It is wonderful to see you working to keep the North End good. I hope you are well.

  4. Tom, Shocking that no action has been taken against the landlord.
    I can just see the kids on the deck partying as if they were at the beach. This transgression needs to stop. Is there a reason for the church not taking measures? The church office is on the ground floor just beneath the deck. One would think……

  5. Thank you, Tom, great investigative reporting.
    I remember when the Peace Garden was started by the Franciscans of St. Leonard’s Church. There was a Friar named Brother Gerard, a very saintly man, who began cleaning up the vacant lot and planted flowers and shrubs. Like his founding father, St. Francis of Assisi, Gerard wanted to attract birds, insects and small animals to the garden so that people could come and enjoy a peaceful repose in the middle of the North End. What those neighbors have done is shameful and disrespectful to his memory.

    1. We are aware and will be addressing the issue at our meeting this evening.

      Thank you,


  6. Yet another sad indicator of the tragic decline of the neighborhood and how inconsiderate and disrespectful some residents can be.
    I think there may be a typo in the article (?). At least according to Google Maps, 226 Hanover is where Lucca is, further up the street. The location discussed in the article seems to be 326 Hanover st. (the back of Panza).

    1. The building address has been corrected to 326-328 Hanover Street, with a notice on the post. Thank you.

  7. That is disgusting NO RESPECT any more. The landlord is responsible as well as ISD shame on every one of them. God will get them one way or the other, that is a disgrace.

  8. CALL, CALL, CALL, as the writer suggests! I”m going to do that right now! This situation is WAY beyond outrageous!

  9. There are three people running for City Council from our area. What are their positions on this issue? What do they believe ISD is suppose to do in a case like this? There is also a Mayoral race this year, perhaps this and similar issues would be ideal questions to ask all candidates.

  10. Why am I not surprised ?? But I wonder why City Hall top people can’t act? Wouldn’t Stephen Passacantilli be the official to go to? After all, in the story in this same issue of the newsletter, about the debate of District 1 candidates, in Charlestown July 7, Stephen is quoted:

    “Passacantilli hit a chord with his emphasis on constituent services, and how he has become an expert on helping people resolve problems in the neighborhoods during his career at City Hall.

    “Constituent services is what this job is,” he said. “There are some overarching issues – like One Charlestown and Wynn Casino – but this is a nuts and bolts constituent services job. I am available 24/7, 365 days a year. I am that guy that if you have a pothole in front of your house and Public Works isn’t there in 48 hours, I’m going to get my boots on and do it myself. I am an expert at constituent services. I’m not being cocky. It’s what I’ve been doing at City Hall for years…I’m going to make it happen.”

  11. The city of Boston, in spite of it’s properganda , is declining. They are not going to wake up till every neighborhood is a ghetto or university ghetto, where these future minds do nothing but drink and show how ignorant alcohol makes them act. Thats why people are moving out of Boston. Too congested and they really don’t care about people who want to retain a good, clean, safe neighbor with values, tradition and culture. I guess you have to be a neighborhood that’s has shootings every night, to get the city’s attention. And for that inspector, maybe he be happy unemployed . I’m outright sure, many good people would like a city job. The Northend is wearing down, because of some of the slobs moving in. For those committed residents and associations, who fight to keep the North End safe, clean and that flavor, thumbs up to you. The North End is nit only cared for by these residents, but many who may not live there, but love and want it protected as if it was it’s own. To a point , too bad the olds are over. Those low life disrespected youth, would have had a visit and they would have moved pronto. But now, we just have a useless city inspector.

  12. 311 is a complete joke. It’s only as good as the people handling the cases and their is no oversight (plus they have had atleast 3 directors on the past year + and the mayor’s office has been made aware of a number of the constant issues).

    The city sees the north end as a cash cow, but doesn’t care about the residents. As long as the business (mostly owned by people who don’t live in the neighborhood) and tourists are happy, that’s all that matters. Absentee landlords are prevent and it doesn’t seem to matter who many violations a building gets or the activity that goes on in some, the city will only step in when they “have an ax to grind.”

    How about someone audits 311 to see if they respond, the response time and the result.

    I don’t think we’ll be too surprised.

    remember all of this come November.

  13. ..I reached out to Kathy Curran WCVB. I left a message on her line. Ten minutes later Matt called me back. I stated the issue and also told him to check out NorthEnd news for more info. His response was to look into the issue and determine whether it was a story. A title, a beginning and an end. THAT is a story! Let’s flood WCVB with calls. Strengh in numbers ………

  14. this is heart breaking.. the love that brother gerad and father ubaldus put in this garden and how it has brought so much joy to not only north enders but their friends also..disgrace a student at saint anthonys school.. we had the may processions in there to crown the blessed virgin mary.. this makes me very angry and sads..little by little especially when these outsiders are messing with a church ..the north end is going to be extint.. all the money st leonards is raising to fix the church up and this patio?

  15. One might recall that the man works for the same city agency that tried to shut down a 45-year old sidewalk produce stand at the corner of Salem and Cooper Streets last summer.

    —First of all Code Enforcement and ISD are not the same department, and the vendor didn’t have a permit! Just ask him when your shopping this Saturday!

    This is the same department which forced a North End business to expend several thousand dollars in repainting a storefront because the building inspector determined that the shade of the color (not the color itself) did not comport with his interpretation of the building permit.

    —Didn’t you and your braggarts at NEWRA unrelentingly torture the Mendoza family about the use of their basement to sell pizza and the “beautiful” mural they had painted? I’d say they had to expend “tens” of thousands of dollars on legal fees for a benign technicality on their application. Why isn’t that mentioned in your commentary.

    These are the same folks that yanked a food license from a local business when they discovered that the beloved proprietor kept a pet cat on the premises.

    —I think having a cat perusing in an establishment where cooking (illegally) is being done violates health violations.

    North Enders are increasingly unable to find affordable housing in their neighborhood

    —If your concerned about affordable rents in our neighborhood why don’t you rent the apartments in your building for below market rate to a North End senior/family.

    Tom you should also ask for a refund from the Law School you attended!

    A happy life long resident of the North End who loves living in the greatest neighborhood in the U.S.A.

    1. Unless you were a paleontologist, I don’t know why you would be “happy” about a group of Neanderthals showing up in hallowed space in our neighborhood. And I’m curious about what the cat was “perusing” – the New York Times?

      1. Calling a group of people neanderthals is unbelievably disrespectful and demeaning, especially coming from the President of the North End Waterfront’s Residents Association. Resorting to ad hominem attacks on complete strangers? This is it folks, bullying at its finest! Super professional Mary. I bet those Neanderthal’s have more common sense, especially during the time that we live in, than to stereotype strangers and harass them online. Did you see those pictures on the news? Ya, seems like they were really getting crazy out there!

        1. Gordon, you are absolutely right – I should not have used the term “Neanderthal.” Research has shown that Neanderthals were actually quite advanced and they would not have behaved the way some people feel entitled to behave in our neighborhood. I think “Yahoo” would have been a better term. By the way, I think you are a little confused about what a bully is. When residents admonish someone who is disrespecting their neighborhood’s culture, traditions and significant places, that is not bullying. That is standing up for our quality of life. I think it is wonderful that so many people have been willing to do that in this instance.

    2. Happy North End Resident,
      Why don’t you identify yourself? Before making erroneous comments about “illegally” cooking, check your facts. There are a few restaurants that have resident cats that nobody is aware of, sSo also check your facts. The health dept will look the other way when it comes to a cat in this neighborhood. They know the law, but also know the need for a cat even with a regular extermination program in place. Until someone like you “spineless” complains, they are required to answer that complaint. Also, nobody cares that you have been here your entire life or for one week. The fact that you are hiding speaks volumes.
      It is easy and spineless to write your opinion anonymously. So grow a sack or STFU!
      A very active participant and resident in the greatest neighborhood in the world.

  16. Perhaps we should consider mailing letters to the owner (copying the Mayor, ISD, and anyone else we can think of). Send letters to the address to the attention of the owner with ‘Please Forward’.
    It is a shame that owners who benefitted from the neighborhood and church area when they lived here would not respond to their former neighborhood when people reach out for help.
    It is all about the $$ their building brings in. What a lack of respect- I hope none of the owner’s friends and family still living in the North End are effected by this situation.

  17. I noticed the deck one morning going to a Funeral Mass while young men were drinking at 10:30am. They were drunk and loud while the coffin being was taken into the Peace Garden. I went into the
    church amazed and disgusted. What more abuse do we have to take in this neighborhood.

  18. The story can be seen on WCVB PeaceGarden. The story aired at 11:00 last night. Sorry I missed it! AMEN

  19. Exodus 20:17 – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    Idk, they seem like some good looking dudes just trying to find happiness in this crazy, mixed up world. Nice tans, and their friends look fun! I think we could all learn something from their good vibes.

  20. Great article Tom you caught my attention and the North End residents the News at 11 pm will bring results to this situation and if inspectional services does their job you won’t hear anymore noise. As far as Stephen P. I’m certain he will get involved now that the story is out there. It’s sad that this should even happen in our neighborhood. God Bless the people who care about OUR North End and again Thank You Tom for bringing this to our attention.

  21. I happen to be the son of the 87 year old owner of the north end apartment story on the news last evening . To say the least the story was extremely upsetting to my elderly mother, myself and to the three young men who live in the apartment. Equally important it was at best a misrepresentation of the facts. It would have been helpful as a responsible reporters, if people made an attempt to reach out to the landlord (my mom) to understand the context around this story.

    Just to clarify, my mom was born and raised in that apartment. As a young child she remembers with great joy going out to that deck, while her mom hung out laundry. In fact I was born in that apartment and worked at the local health center (next door to the apartment building) for many years while in graduate school. My grandmother would hang out laundry on that deck as many north end residents continue to do so throughout the community.

    It has always been my mom’s dream that her grandson would someday live in the north end. To this end her grandson (my son) a local medical student, his roommate ( a local law student) and a nursing student have lived in that apartment without incident. They hope to enjoy the had hoped to enjoy the peace garden from their apartment’s perspective just as others do. They have never been intoxicated on that space, and as others hope to benefit from the peace garden as the continue to embark on their studies. If anything my son finds the peace garden a welcome respite to study As much as my mom (and her parents before her), have tried to be good neighbors with the Catholic Church, this is just one in a litany of incidents in which the catholic church with far more resources than my mom, continue to bully my mom.

    In fact many months ago when my mom discussed this issue, she called Boston Inspectional services who indicated as long as the area was safe and a deck was not built that it was ok to put a few chairs and sit and read. This was the hope and wish of my mom, for her grandson and it is unfortunate that this irresponsible reporting misrepresented the facts in this regard has created such an uproar.

    My mom by the way, has had some recent rather acute medical problems, and when she has healed we hope to attend a meeting of the north end council to discuss further
    Bob Caggiano

  22. As the grandson of the landlord, I am shocked and disgusted with all of this…

    A) For years, my grandmother (an 87-YEAR-OLD LADY who was born and raised in the North End) has tried to work with the church. Working with the church about matters that have to do with HER OWN PROPERTY has not been an easy process- for one, the church sees the world in a very, very particular way and anything that does not fall within its idyllic vision often leads to dispute, even when it comes to HER OWN PROPERTY. But also, the church has considerably more resources than my 87-YEAR-OLD GRANDMOTHER and has been able to get away with bullying her for years. So much for ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ These resources are not just financial, but social as well- take for example five local firefighters coming to the apartment uninvited and trying to scare us tenants into not using the outdoor area. Very unprofessional. Instead of bringing up these concerns with the landlord, the church and its pack of angry parishioners chose to go to channel 5 and misrepresent this situation.

    B) The recently built fence is not part of a deck….lawyers/insurance representatives told my grandmother to add the fence because it would enhance the safety of that area in case residents in the building actually need to use the fire escape. Because there was no construction (outside of the fence for safety measures) this ‘deck’ does not qualify as a ‘deck’ or ‘porch’ and is not illegal. As long as it is safe (which insurance/lawyers have assured us) then we can use our own PRIVATE PROPERTY however we’d like.

    C) The complaints that we have been causing a ruckus are bogus. Never have we engaged your parishioners as they find solace in the ‘sanctuary’ of St. Leonard’s. @Thomas ‘Spotlight’ Schiavoni-
    your description of us tenants as “boisterous young men” who have mocked and taunted parishioners is completely unfounded. Never have we played music that is louder than Giacomo’s or the gift store across the street…and to be honest, the hustle and bustle of Hanover street surely drowns out our conversation…otherwise you guys are paying way too much attention to our conversation, and not enough attention to your inner dialogue with god. Stop calling the fire department and news…they have things far more important to deal with than a few young adults lawfully using their own property.

    D) The church is currently under construction…for almost a year, right? How can a few people who probably use the deck at most 2-3x/week really disrupt the sanctity of an area that is under construction?

    E) 328 Hanover street is not the church’s property. Stop projecting your views onto other lawful residents of the North End…locals here are starting to get a bad rep e.g. the great Pinkberry incident of 2016.

    1. Nick,

      As a young professional who called the North End home for my late 20s and early 30s and got to know many a wonderful St. Leonard’s parishioner in my time there, I find your response equally shocking and disgusting. (Capital letters? Do you really need to shout?). In it, you have done what many young professionals who flock to the North End to live ‘la dolce vita’ often do: you have attempted to live your life at (yes, at, not in) your apartment the way you want to without regard to the people, places, and things happening around you (“private property however we like”). Who, might I add, have been there well before you (maybe not your extended family, but certainly *you*).

      And I guess you technically/legally have that right. But what makes the North End a special place, is that so many people actually live in the neighborhood not only for themselves, but for each other. The real North Enders work very hard to create and maintain a safe, fun, and inclusive environment for themselves and those visiting. As a new North Ender, you should seriously consider the special opportunity you have to contribute to that. Or, if not, ideally decide the neighborhood is not for you and move out of it. Seriously.

      When you’re done with your shock and disgust, and have collected yourself like the professional adult the North End desperately needs more good examples of, I urge you to think about your private property (and what you do on it) in the context of the greater community. What a beautiful thing to live in your grandmother’s apartment, next to the oldest Catholic church in New England (regardless of its construction status, by the way, the Peace Garden and parish office are still open and command crowds of tourists), which was built by the hands of Italian immigrants whose generations beyond them still live in the neighborhood. That’s something many North Enders are proud of, and their respect of it follows suit. Your behavior, at least the behavior that is visible to the public eye, should reflect this pride and respect. I can tell in this response alone that it falls short at the moment.

      When you get to that point, however, extend an olive branch the kind and generous people in the North End. Get to know faces and names of the ‘OGs’ who probably remember your grandmother or played in your apartment before you were even a figment of your parent’s imagination. I’ve found that that is way better than any quasi-balcony party, anyway.

      1. Thanks for your response KL,

        Perhaps some of my comments were extreme, but if you made a news story for something that is founded on false and made up statements, how would you respond? How would you respond when the fire department comes to your apartment and tries to intimidate you out of doing something that is within your legal right? Again, to put it into perspective, this is not my families only qualm with the church. For decades they have been able to bully my grandmother.

        Personally, I have been here for three years and we have used this deck for almost two years. How has this only got so much heat now (I do have to acknowledge the North End council teaming up and calling the fire department, police and local news)? With the flurry of videos+articles that have come out, you guys portray us as a bunch of frat bros who party hard and are completely insensitive to our surroundings. That is not true at all. When there are funerals we don’t go out. We are quiet (especially relative to rest of the North End), and have never had more than 4-5 people on the deck at one time.

        Try and digest this from our perspective JL…we literally just sit there, enjoy the view and do our own thing. These complaints that we harass parishioners and engage them as they find solace in the sanctuary are 100% made up. In light of this, how would you respond when you and your grandmother are being painted in such a negatively skewed light?

        1. Nick,

          I will tell you that I would not respond as you have done (both here and on the news), simply for the optics alone. Your defensiveness looks like guilt to me, and probably to many others. And as far as I can tell, your dear grandmother has been left out of this until you and your father (in comments above) came shouting in her 87-year-old defense.

          Regardless, if you have been in the apartment for three years and using the deck for two years, it is odd that this is an issue now (and, definitely, that you are an accused “new resident”). Perhaps something happened? Even if just a one-time offense? Surely if you had invested in getting to know the people of the neighborhood over the course of three years, this could have been a simple, civil conversation that need not spiral out of control (which it most certainly has).

          As for “perspectives”: when I lived in the North End, I lived in a high-traffic area to drunk crowds who often woke me up at 2, 3, 4 a.m. regardless of weekday or weekend. I would open my window and asked them to see it from my perspective (“Please, people have to work in four hours.”), and be quieter. Often they would shout up to me that it was “my fault/not their fault” I chose to live where I did, that they were on a public street and they could do as they desired. So, I guess what I’m trying to say, is that when it comes to perspectives, there are two sides to every coin. It’s important that you have patience and understanding for the side that is not your own (even if you find it intimidating, bullying, rude, etc.). When you don’t have it, seek it (or another solution) out. Sadly, it seems like the other side of the coin felt they had no option but other solution(s) to get you to hear them.

          At the end of the day you should know that no one in the North End wants conflict. But they all do want swift solutions to things they consider problematic, because there are better ways to spend precious energy then being constantly agitated by something. When the problem is/involves you, the solution can be/involve you too… and you should welcome that opportunity.

  23. I find it really ridiculous that Nick and his buddies expect everyone to believe their claims that they are poor innocent victims of the church parishioners who use the garden, the clergy, neighborhood association, the firemen, and channel 5 news. Here we have Millennial denial at its finest. Here we have an active group of people who all have witnessed your harassment and documented it, and all you seem to do is whine and remind everyone that you vacate the deck during funerals. I mean really? Is that all you got? Why don’t you take some responsibility?

    1. Patty in one statement , the gentleman admit to being on the “deck” during “maybe just one funeral”. I am sorry that your integrity was questioned by this group.

  24. I know what I saw, when you have no respect for the dead, you have no respect for the living. I have no reason to write fake news.

  25. @Patricia, “When you have no respect for the dead, you have no respect for the living”. Is that a joke? You are actually overreacting and over dramatizing this entire situation. Of course these boys have respect for the living. The fact that you would try and vilify these boys, based on what they sometimes do in their free time on their own porch is disgusting. Have you ever heard of sampling bias? I am glad you can pick out one time that they might have been talking while a funeral was taking place. Did the rest of Hanover street shut down their operations at this time? Obviously not. When you have a funeral at that location, you are anticipating there being a lot of noise. Also @ SB, how can you say you “find it really ridiculous that Nick and his buddies expect everyone to believe their claims that they are poor innocent victims”. Clearly, you don’t know these boy, or the situation at all, because I have known them for years. So please, show me this documentation that these witnesses have? This article itself is truly disgusting. @Tom, next time you write an article, why not try and get information from both sides. I know for a fact you did not do that in this case, and it’s just really sad that your trying to slander these kids over something you don’t even understand.

    1. @SH, I am not an insider on this, but did see that Channel 5 news said in their report their harassment is documented, and even interviewed a parishioner who tried to intervene, and got yelled at. I have not seen what they have, but if you scroll up, you will see a photo of 4 people on the balcony facing the garden with their faces etched out. Either this group is silently taking in the view of the statue and Hanover Street (doubtful), or they are probably engaging in a conversation with someone below. Nick says they sit on the deck and “do their thing.” The person who took the photo probably likely has more photos and possibly video of this encounter and perhaps some others. I choose to believe them. Most people who visit the Peace Garden to appreciate peace. Why would a group of devout church-attending people and community leaders all get together and decide to lie about these guys, even to the extent of involving the ISD, police and fire dept? Doesn’t add up, and why deserve the benefit of the doubt just because of how old their grandmother is and how long she has owned the property, and because you know them? I go by what makes the most sense.

      1. @SB, The photo your referring to, of the 4 people dressed up nicely on the roof. Could they not simply be enjoying conversation with each other, while taking in the beauty around them? Also, even if they were talking to someone below, how does that indicate they were conveying a negative message to the people they were potentially engaging with? Why would they do that? Like Nick and his father mentioned above, their family grew up in the place. If I am correct from the above comments, 4 generations of his family has lived there. Why would they disrespect this area like that? The simply truth is, the church has unrealistic expectations of what they want from these kids. The church has been trying to eliminate people from using that deck for the last couple years. How is that fair? It’s their own private property, and they got it approved by ISD. Its not a deck, its a fire escape that has a railing for safety reasons. Why would they not go out there? If anyone has proof that these kids harass the parishioners and visitors with “vulgar language and sometimes obscene shouts” then please share it with us. There has been absolutely NO proof at all supporting the claims of this article, or the hot headed views of the majority of people who have commented on this. Yes, in the video the Parishioner that talked said he was yelled at. What reason do you have to believe his claims over the residents that live there? The title of this article is “An Illegal Deck”. I got news for all of you, it is not an illegal deck, it is 100% legal, and as they mentioned it has been approved by the ISD. What is wrong with putting railings on a fire escape to make it safer? Is it illegal to go out on your fire escape? This article couldn’t be more of a misrepresentation and exaggeration, while being unbelievably biased.

        1. @SH I have seen enough bad behavior in the North End from residents and their guests that I am going by what makes the most sense. I don’t see how church members, clergy, and a neighborhood council can all gather together and invent these stories. The parishioner who was interviewed was more credible in my eyes because he showed his face on camera rather than interview via an apartment buzzer. He spoke with conviction and his comments showed he cared for the church and the neighborhood. The reporters offered these guys a chance to speak on their own behalf and they declined. Granted if I were in their shoes, I’d probably do the same, but nothing these guys or their friends have said scream innocence. As for the ISD and the deck, I would leave it to the city workers to iron that out amongst themselves, but they didn’t make the news for sunbathing, they made the news for harassing others.

    2. @Hernan, Nobody’s faces were plastered all over the Internet and the news. They were taken out. Are we viewing the same materials? Maybe it is better for the boys’ futures for there not to be any footage of the harassment in the news and the internet because having that accessible will damage them long term.
      Maybe these groups presented the evidence they had to the officials, neither to the Council nor Channel 5. You cannot really say with 100% certainty that you know for a fact it wasnt recorded can you?

      1. @SB We are indeed looking at different materials because yes, in fact, one face was not blurred out. A long close up of his face as he was taking the plastic lawn chairs off of his “deck,” after he was told to remove them, even though he had absolutely no legal/moral obligation to do so. He complied with the request in order to de-escalate the situation, and when he did so, someone was waiting outside to record him! Now his face is all over Fox 25 Boston!

        There is a reason that no footage was shown of them yelling profanities at anyone, and that is because that footage does not exist. It clearly has nothing to do with protecting the “boy’s future” as his home address, last name, and face has been distributed not only across this website, but across major local news networks. If you are going to show all of that personal information, why stop at the actual smoking gun footage? Your argument fails.

        If there is any footage of these kids harassing passersby, as is claimed, then I say roll the tapes at the next Council meeting. That will at least provide actual evidence/context for all of these pretty wild claims, and could lead to a solution that would make the community at large happy. Until then this is all hearsay and at this point it is approaching harassment (multiple online editorials, multiple nightly news segments, multiple visits by BDP and FD even when there is nothing/no one on the fire escape).

        1. I concede that I did not see that footage, only Channel 5’s. It is very unfortunate that their personal details are online anyway. We can agree on that. But it still does not answer the question of, Why would the motive be of these individuals to conspire to tell lies? Why all this just to get some kids off of a deck?

          1. The human brain can accomplish all that it does because it takes short-cuts. One of these short-cuts is stereotyping. A lot of locals from this area are frustrated with the party scene flowing over from other areas of Boston into the north end. To be honest, its fair to be frustrated. However, what’s not fair, is the stereotyping and slandering that is going on around this story. Had the tenants been older adults hanging up their laundry on the fire escape, this would have never been news. Since the tenants are millennials, it is easy for you to see them as the bad guys. Its also very easy for overly frustrated locals to depict them as the bad guys, because of the association many north end locals already have between millennials and disrespect. So @SB, what is the motive behind this fabrication? The motive is for these locals to take out their anger and frustration with the changing state of the north end by using whatever outlet they can get press for. Most people commenting probably don’t even realize that they are doing it, but still, they are taking years worth of anger out on a group of boys who do not deserve these vastly embellished accusations.

            1. As a general rule, it is better not to venture into discussions one knows nothing about. Every single suburban friend and family member of these individuals (they are far from being “boys”) can weigh in to defend them. It does not change the bottom line – their activities have been viewed and documented by numerous respected members of our community. So, you may refer to “fabrication” but the residents of the North End do not have any trouble in determining who is credible and who is not. Only someone who had no idea of the identity of the parishioner who was interviewed would dream of asking why people believed him. And where did this idea come from that owning property gives you carte blanche to do anything you want with it? Everyone (even those whose families lived here 50 years ago) has to comply with state/local codes and regulations. So, the solution for the occupants of the apartment is simple – stop hanging out on the fire escape and stop putting furniture and other belongings out there. Those activities are prohibited by law. I assure you that no one will take the slightest interest in you after that. And the solution for the people who do not live in the North End but are very eager to tell us how to conduct ourselves is simple as well. Please keep your demeaning comments about our neighborhood to yourselves and please do not bring up stereotyping and then go on to talk about people hanging their laundry on fire escapes. Oh, and ix-nay on the ocals-lay – we are residents and, more importantly, neighbors.

              1. I wish I could believe your last sentence. I really wish I could. But the rest of your statement contradicts that so much, that I almost think you are doing it ironically.

                See, I am your neighbor. I’ve lived in the North End for years. These boys (men) are also your neighbors. So referring to me as a “suburban friend” is false and demeaning. And it is also a moot point, because that news segment was aired all over Boston, not just here in the North End, so obviously more eyes are on this issue than normal.

                And as a resident/neighbor, I do have trouble in determining who is credible and who is not. Your argument has gone from “These kids are shouting profanities at parishioners and yelling at other people in the peace garden! Outrageous!” all the way to “Just take the chairs off of the balcony and no one will care anymore.” That is a pretty quick change of tone! Is it because there is absolutely no evidence that these boys (men) were doing anything that they are accused of? This whole thing sounds like you (and the church) made up false accusations just to force these boys (men) off of their own property. Sad!

                Speaking of property…and the idea of “carte blanche”…there is only one question that needs to be answered: Do those boys (men) have a legal right to use that part of their apartment for their quiet enjoyment. Yes or No. If the answer is yes, then they do indeed have carte blanche to use it to their liking! If the answer is no, then they don’t. Very simple. Again, referring back to my previous statements, your anger should be with the zoning board and the ISD, not these gentlemen.

                And by the way, Mary, the first person to refer to “hanging laundry” was the son of the Landlord in question. He wrote: “My grandmother would hang out laundry on that deck as many north end residents continue to do so throughout the community”

                That isn’t stereotyping, that is a personal allegory. In fact, YOU are stereotyping by calling non-residents “suburban friends and family”

            2. I don’t agree with your assertions and the perceived motive that this is the result of a common resentment and fear of outsiders. The idea that a bunch of community members got together to play Salem witch trials involving the police, fire dept, media and isd is grasping for straws here and kind of outrageous. For bullying and attentionwhoring? Decent people, (commonly long time residents of any neighborhood) react negatively and strongly when hearing about disrespect toward something sacred by individuals that do not show respect, and that is what is going on here. Harassing people who are trying to enjoy the beauty and sanctity of the church is going to get the attention of a lot of people and is not quite the same as drying laundry quietly. It doesn’t matter if they well dressed “strapping” young men, or if they were grandfathered in their residence. Boston Roman Catholics will write you and them off for saying the church is lying and inventing this. Good luck getting support with that

  26. “Mocked and taunted parishioners and visitors to the garden with vulgar language and sometimes obscene shouts to pedestrians along the sidewalk beyond” — This seems kind of strange for a couple of guys who are just sunbathing on their deck, as shown by the pictures in this article. Is there any evidence to back up that statement, or is it all hearsay? I would love to see that evidence if it exists (it would have helped if it was included in all of those news reports!)

    Without any actual evidence (besides pictures of two guys enjoying the sun, or of a small group of well-dressed individuals enjoying a nice day), this all seems like a witch-hunt propagated by a decades-old feud between neighbors. Have any of you watched the ~10 minute video of the Neighborhood Counsel? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!: “Can’t we just kick these ‘yahoos’ out of the community?” “God will get them, one way or another.” So much for inclusive, “christian” values. Grouping a bunch of uninformed, angry folks in a room to vent about situations that they know nothing about is the definition of the “blind leading the blind.” Laughable.

    When is the last time any of you actually went into that garden? I stopped by yesterday just to see it with my own eyes and I saw: 1) construction workers eating lunch and talking loudly 2) Tourists smoking cigarettes and eating cannolis from Mike’s Pastry 3) a bunch of pigeons devouring a baguette that was thrown on the grass. Gross!

    You live in a major city in the USA where people have both personal and property rights. If you want to protect your culture, traditions and significant places, have your government officials do something about it instead of plastering these boy’s names and faces all over the internet. If the ISD is aware of this situation and hasn’t done anything about it, its either because they are incompetent or there is nothing illegal about the deck in question. Resorting to self help methods like badgering the local firefighters to go into their apartment 3 times in 2 days just to get some video footage of a strapping young man respectfully complying with their wishes to remove lawn chairs is harassment.

    It seems like instead of taking the proper legal routes to resolve neighborhood disputes, most of you are more interested in destroying these kid’s lives and running them out of town. To @Tom’s credit, the bulk of this article is actually focused on the issue of governmental non-action and economic change in the area, yet the comments here are all about the kid’s alleged “despicable” actions, of which none have ever been recorded or proved. Where are all the news reports about your local government not doing their job? Where is that outrage? You’re misguided anger towards this kids is telling of how you really feel about outsiders and those cut from a different cloth.

    If you biggest problem in life right now is that a few kids like to catch rays on their deck, then I would say your life is #blessed.

  27. Is it a legal deck or is it a fire escape? Or is it both? Both terms have been used sometimes in the same post. If it is a fire escape the following MA State Law states:
    Section 22: Articles placed on fire escapes
    Section 22. Any article placed upon a fire escape or an outside means of egress of any building is hereby declared a common nuisance. Any court authorized to issue warrants in criminal cases may, upon complaint under oath made by any police officer that any article is placed or maintained upon a fire escape or outside means of egress of any building, issue a warrant to bring such article when found before a court having jurisdiction of the same, and all articles seized under the authority of such a warrant shall be disposed of in like manner as gaming implements seized under chapter two hundred and seventy-six. Any owner, lessee, tenant or occupant of any building who maintains or permits to remain upon any fire escape or outside means of egress of any building any article for more than twenty minutes shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars. The existence of any article upon a fire escape or outside means of egress of any building shall be prima facie evidence that such article was so placed, maintained or permitted to remain by the occupant of the premises having access from said building to said fire escape or outside means of egress.
    Perhaps the City of Boston has a different regulation for placement of furniture on fire escapes. However obviously if it is a legal deck it can be used as such.

    1. If I understand this correctly, if this deemed a fire escape, it is being used in an illegal fashion? If this has been reclaimed as a deck, would there be a building permit to confirm this?

      Regardless, if the users are shouting obsenities whether it be high noon or midnight, this is a act of disturbing the peace. Again disturbing the peace should result in a police complaint. Over time, the burden of proof will be the number of complaints that have been filed with the police.

  28. We are so tired of these kids thinking they can come into our neighborhood & do whatever they want. We plant flowers & they pull them out. They take our planters off the wall & smash them & then we have to listen to them yelling like someone is killing them at 2:00 am. How were they brought up, like animals??? They have no respect. Throw them out!!!

  29. Denice i totally agree with you I’m across the street defacing property pulling flowers out from wall plants that your mom so diligently waters and buys to beautify her building! a young man pulling them out saying that he wanted to give them to his girlfriend! Pure ignorent, and yes who did bring them up to be so disrespectful! Oh yes and yelling in street at 2 in the morning

  30. I say an 87 yr old grandmother should be able to sit on her porch (not deck).
    You know what pleasure that gives her? The youngsters are the problem and their leases won’t be renewed. Let nana have her precious world. I think it would have killed my grandmother if she were denied that outdoor space….like the days back in Italy.

  31. Can you imagine an 87 year old nana being denied access to her little porch / deck, which is legal? It would have killed my grandmother if that pleasure were denied her. Get rid of the tenants and let her have her last days living in ‘ Italy’, with the sun and the Peace Garden. All the rest is moot.

    1. Heather . one of the tenants is the 87 yr grandmother’s GRANDSON. The nana lives in Newton and is not moving back to the North End to sit on her FIRE ESCAPE.

      1. Joyce. Well, I guess I should keep out of this, since the history is an unknown to me. Thank you for responding and I do hope your tone was not sarcastic toward me !

    2. The way I am reading this is, the issue of legality is lesser issue, but one way of dealing with the larger issue.

      If anyome were to observe two elderly ladies quietly sipping tea on this overlook (I’ll use thise because it’s not clear what it is currently), would this be an issue? I’m guessing that quiet relaxation would probably go unnoticed because if you walk through any part of the neighborhood on a warm day you see a lot of this. On the other hand, if you hear a bunch slugging down beer with the radio blasting, you will notice this, especially when your in a “Peace Garden”. It’s really an exercise in knowing your surroundings and fitting in.

      I’ve lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods. The North End isn’t one, you definately needed to know your surroundings and not standout rather do your best to fit in. Here they will give you some grief, around, let’s say the Newark area, if someone wanted to get you, they would really get to you. There is a technique to urban living and a lot of people unfamiliar with it, don’t get it.

  32. As Joyce correctly pointed out in her very funny comment, the grandmother lives in Newton and has been there over 50 years. As Joyce also correctly pointed out, the area in question is a fire escape. Since It can only be accessed by climbing out a window, its appropriate use is for emergency situations. If there is anyone who is still wondering about the legal use of this space, ISD Commissioner William Christopher came to the NEWRA meeting last Thursday and stated unequivocally that it is a fire escape and not a deck. Moreover, the permit which was recently obtained for the railing specifically stated “Rails are being installed as a safety rail and not deck rails.” Though, as Commissioner Christopher also explained, it is not unusual for someone to obtain a permit for one purpose and try to sneak in something very different. We certainly have seen plenty of that in our neighborhood. Commissioner Christopher recommended that we read permits carefully and that we contact ISD if something seems amiss. He also stated that the use of the space over the Peace Garden will be monitored. So, congratulations to everyone who spoke out and followed up on this. Citizen advocacy does work.

  33. Hi everyone. Follow up: Inspectional Services Commissioner William “Buddy” Christopher talks about the illegal use of the fire escape over looking the peace garden. It is a fire escape and nothing should block the egress. He also assured everyone that no one from ISD gave the landlord or tenants permission to use it as a deck, as they have claimed.

  34. this is what happens when old people see lots of money in there face ok
    I seen this coming in 1980″s ok I had to move out before the rent went from $175 too $1000″s ok
    the north end is done of the old ways
    its a town of fast making money
    its sad to me I had to move out
    they say thing change but sometimes not for the good but for the bad
    you are not gonna win on this one people have the city hall in there pockets and the state house looks the other way because they are with them too
    days gone by

    1. Amen Frankie. Where did you move to? Let’s start up a new North End, one where these hooligans aren’t welcome!

  35. A Final Word: When I first submitted my story to Matt Conti, publisher-editor of, he was glad that he would have at least one item with a local slant to headline the week to come while he was away on a family emergency. Little did we realize that a firestorm would erupt in Matt’s absence, including television coverage and media queries about the Peace Garden at Saint Leonard Church. It was not Pulitzer prize-winning, deathless prose that stirred things up. The column hit a nerve in a neighborhood that has recently been under much stress.

    Regardless of one’s faith tradition, the sense of violation to a religious place was palpable and visceral. And, people reacted immediately and creatively in resolving the matter by using their own social media tools at hand when the concrete walls of City Hall’s bureaucracy seemed impenetrable. Something happened. Call it what you want. I think of it as the self-empowerment of vigilant people who responded in unison —not as vigilantes — to a crisis.

    Writers are always fridge magnets for ad hominem attacks from cranks.
    No big deal. That comes with the territory. I am grateful for Matt’s online newspaper which has extended North Enders’ vision and and voices. I am thankful for my neighbors, even the ones I do not know, who have responded magnificently.

    For the moment, an urban oasis, a holy place, a churchyard shrine —call it what you want — has been rescued from exploitation. To be sure, there will be other existential threats to the quality of life in the North End. But, maybe all of us now realize that there is common ground and a sense of cohesion that can be summonsed when an imminent threat is detected. And that is something to be grateful for. In the meantime … Go in peace. The Mass is ended.

    Thomas F. Schiavoni

    1. Thanks,I think the score card speaks for itself. Has to be one of the most discussed articles yet.

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