Disastrous snow handling in Boston

By | February 1, 2011


February 1, 2011

Mayor Thomas M. Menino
1 City Hall Square, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02201-2013

(617) 635-4500

Dear Mayor Menino,

On the brink of yet another major snowstorm, I am writing to complain about how incredibly bad the city’s handling of the snow has been this winter.

  1. Neighborhood streets all over the city are overwhelmed with snow. There’s no place for residents to put new snow even if they want to do the right thing while shoveling. There’s no place for people to park their cars. Other cities in the area, such as Waltham, have recognized the problem and are removing snow from neighborhood streets, not just main arteries. Why isn’t Boston? (examples: Foster Street in Brighton between Surrey and Washington Streets; and Leamington Road in Brighton)
  2. The city has been too slow even about removing snow from main arteries, let alone neighborhood streets. An MBTA transit alert that went out last week, between storms, was particularly telling: “All Bus Routes are experiencing 20-25 min delays due to snow banks impeding the roadway.”
  3. Pedestrian islands and squares, which are essential for pedestrian safety when driver visibility is impeded by snow-banks, haven’t merely been left unshoveled; in some cases plows have added huge piles of snow. (examples: the intersection of Wirt and Washington Streets in Brighton, and the intersection of Milk and Kilby Streets downtown)
  4. Code enforcement has been nonexistent. I’ve been opening cases through Citizens Connect for five days about improperly shoveled sidewalks on my block. None of those cases have been closed; none of the violators have been cited; none of the improperly shoveled sidewalks have been fixed. If the snow blocking those sidewalks hasn’t completely frozen by now, it probably will during the impending storm, which means it’ll be next to impossible for responsible property owners to remove it even if they want to. By not citing the property owners promptly after the storm, the city has ensured that residents will be stuck navigating unshoveled sidewalks for weeks or even months. Not to mention how angry it makes residents who spend hours shoveling their sidewalks properly only to see their neighbors flaunt the law and get away with it unscathed.
  5. There are still parking space “markers” on my block five days after the end of the last storm, despite the 48-hour rule. I’ve opened cases about these as well, and again, nothing has been done. Yesterday’s trash pickup was a prime opportunity for the markers to be removed as the city’s Web site claims they would be, but it wasn’t done. Residents like me who follow the rule and stop marking our spaces 48 hours after a storm are just out of luck — other people have claimed our spaces with markers of their own, and now we have no place to park (see point 1 above). Making rules that you don’t enforce encourages a mindset of flaunting the law and harms the residents who follow them. Get rid of the rule, change it, or start enforcing it.
  6. Curb cuts all over the city are not just unshoveled; many of them are blocked by huge snow-banks created by city plows. This is dangerous to able-bodied pedestrians, but more importantly, it makes the city impassable to the disabled and is therefore unquestionably a violation of the ADA. The city is required by federal law to keep sidewalks useable for the disabled year-round. Is it going to take a lawsuit from a group of disabled plaintiffs to force the city to abide by the law? Is “We’ll only do it if there’s a court order” the standard of behavior you want your administration to be known for?

Mr. Mayor, I know that the amount of snow this year has been virtually unprecedented. I am sure figuring out how to deal with it has been a huge challenge for you and the responsible department heads. I would like to think that you are trying your best to do the right thing, but at this point I’m left with the suspicion that what you’re really trying your best to do is spend as little money as possible on snow for the rest of the winter. If so, then I suggest you change your attitude, or you will find that I and many other residents will not remember this winter fondly come the next election.


Jonathan Kamens

Cc: Neighborhood Liaison Daniel Roan
Cc: Press Secretary Dot Joyce
Cc: Councilor Mark Ciommo
Cc: Councilor Stephen Murphy
Cc: Councilor Felix Arroyo
Cc: Councilor John Connolly
Cc: Councilor Ayanna Pressley
Cc: The Boston Globe
Cc: The Boston Herald
Cc: The Allston-Brighton TAB
Cc: http://blog.kamens.us/snow2010
Cc: www.universalhub.com
Cc: allstonbrighton2006@googlegroups.com

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