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North End residents demand solution to trash problems on neighborhood streets

Posted by boston.com  October 4, 2013 05:24 PM

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Residents of the North End are fed up with the trash problem in their neighborhood. They are trying to fix it via volunteerism, grassroots committees, and more city involvement while calling for harsher penalties.

“We need a comprehensive plan to make sure every street and neighborhood in this city is healthy,” said Boston mayoral candidate John Connolly when describing his view for the city at the North End Chamber of Commerce (NECC) meeting held Oct. 1 at St. Leonard's Hall on Prince Street.

Connolly joked that he mostly speaks about education, but noted, with the North End as his backdrop, that in order to create a more livable Boston the city must create “safe and healthy neighborhoods.”

In the North End, trash is already picked up three times a week and street cleaning begins March 1. In April 2011 and March 2013 Sal LaMattina, the North End's city councilor, and Connolly co-sponsored resolutions expanding the reach of recycling in the city.

Despite these efforts, trash remains a perennial challenge. Connolly asserted the city “need[s] to manage our trash in ways that maximize efficiency and reduce costs.” To combat trash issues, Connolly plans to expand commercial recycling and introduce curbside composting, according to his website.

But in the cramped, tourism-fueled North End, many residents believe deeper change is needed to remedy the trash problem, as cigarette butts and empty bottles still flood the streets, according LaMattina, who attended the meeting.

In response, some residents in the North End have taken action, and others have demanded new solutions. Toni Gilardi, vice president of the NECC, led Operation Clean-Up, an effort to bring residents, Suffolk University students and businesses together to clean up the North End on September 1.

Operation Clean-Up “was our first, but it certainly won't be our last. We plan on doing this bi-annually now,” said Gilardi upon receiving two citations from LaMattina in praise of her effort to clean the neighborhood.

“Why does it have to only be one day?” asked Patricia Thiboutot, a founding member of the North End Beautification Committee (NECB), who attended the NECC meeting. “Why doesn't someone just go out there with a broom?”

The problem remains overwhelming to many, according to Nicholas Labonte, manager of Polcari's Coffee on Salem Street. “You've got a lot of people living in a small space. You're going to have problems no matter what,” he said.

Still, since 2011 the NECB has led neighborhood cleanup days and installed various flower planters around the North End. “It's definitely helped. The trash [issue] is much better,” said Thiboutot.

While conditions may have improved, trash piles up on the weekends and at night, according to Bobby Eustace, owner of Polcari's Coffe. “Cigarette butts are the biggest problem. It'd be nice if there were trash receptacles on each block, just like the solar powered ones in front of the library,” said Eustace.

However, in the past, the city put public trash barrels on nearly every corner in the North End to encourage non-residents to dump waste in the bins, according to Labonte.

“It didn't work,” said Labonte. “Business owners used them and trash overflowed. You really can't fix this mess.”

Some residents believe the best way to fix the problem is to take a harsher tone with offenders to let them know their crimes carry severe penalties. The city should “slap fines on people, and if they repeat they should lose their lease. They can't respect the neighborhood and can't even respect themselves,” said Roman Savino, owner of Friendly Framer on Hanover Street.

Steep fines, in fact, already exist. Littering fines are “not more than $5,500 for the first offense and a fine not to exceed $15,000 for each subsequent offense,” according to Chapter 270, Section 16 of the Massachusetts General Laws.

The best solution, according to LaMattina, is for “everyone just to take more responsibility and do their part.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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