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Midnight snow removal crew angers residents of East Boston

Posted by Laura Gomez  February 14, 2013 12:28 PM

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Photo courtesy of Ashley Sachs.

Snow removal crews clear Sumner Street after midnight Tuesday in the Jeffries Point neighborhood of East Boston.

Residents of Sumner Street in East Boston were forced out of their beds and instructed to move their cars to allow for snow removal operations during the early hours of Tuesday morning — without any advance notice from the city.

Sumner Street resident Ashley Sachs said she and her husband, Ellery, were awakened after midnight by a banging on their front window.

“There was absolutely no announcement for this. If we have gotten a call from the city beforehand, our car wouldn’t have been there at 1 a.m.,” said Sachs. “We don’t have a parking ban on our street. This is not a main artery street.”

Snow on the odd side of the street was cleared by trucks that disturbed the quiet of the night. Several neighbors said a police officer went door to door telling residents to move their cars, and a second police officer in a cruiser used a bullhorn to announce the snow removal operation.

“The cop inside the cruiser was saying, ‘People parked on Sumner Street, you’ve got to come out and move your car’,” said Chris Makridis, who lives on the even side of Sumner Street. “Nobody could sleep because the noise level was too high. It was traumatic for a lot of people and families who have small children.”

City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina said he received phone calls and e-mails from Sumner Street residents. “In this particular incident, we had an over-zealous police officer who thought he was doing the right thing by addressing a public safety issue,” he said. “It was an honest mistake by a police officer.”

Boston Police Department spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca, in an email Thursday morning, said, “We admit officers were not provided clear direction and shouldn't have broadcasted the parking ban in the overnight hours. The storm created a number of difficulties — we are deeply appreciative of all of the patience and cooperation we received from the community.”

Residents who moved their cars had to wait along side streets in the middle of the night until their parking spaces were cleared. Sachs said there were ten Boston Transportation Department tow trucks blocking the streets. Makridis said he saw several tow trucks, but no cars were towed.

“There were about 25 people outside on the side walk in their pajamas, bleary-eyed, waiting to see if their car was going to be towed or not,” said Sachs. “They ended up not towing the cars of the people who didn’t move them and just worked around them.”

On the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association Facebook page, more than a dozen neighbors posted comments denouncing the late-night snow removal as a “fiasco.”

Makridis, in a letter to the mayor’s office and to LaMattina, said, “I strongly feel that the citizens of this community are owed an explanation, an apology, and the individual responsible for this fiasco, held accountable.”

“The snow-clearing activities did wake me up around 4:30 a.m. with all the beeping and scraping,” Heath McKay, a resident of Webster Street, which runs parallel to Sumner Street, said in an email. “When I found out that the snow removal operation terrorized my entire neighborhood and not just me, I was infuriated. What kind of city government thinks it is OK to beat on doors and use a bullhorn in the middle of the night or move people’s property around without any warning? Is the City above noise ordinances too?”

“I will apologize in behalf of the city to the neighborhood,” said LaMattina, “I am very upset that people had to be woken up, but I commend efforts to remove public safety hazards like snow banks from the streets.”

The city lifted the snow emergency and parking ban at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening. A press release issued by the mayor’s office said, “Snow removal teams remain focused on clearing a priority list of 22 major arteries throughout the City. Additionally, 70 streets identified through calls to the Mayor’s 24-Hour Hotline were reached by snow removal and clean-up crews during the overnight shift.”

Video shot early Tuesday morning by Sumner Street resident Chris Makridis:


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