Snowy Boston starts removing parking-space savers
Mar. 02, 2015
BOSTON (AP) — Bostonians have another reason to be steamed about this winter of epic snow: The city is starting to remove the lawn chairs, milk crates, coolers and other stuff that people put on the street to reserve the parking spaces they've dug out.
Garbage haulers began collecting the "space savers" Monday after Mayor Marty Walsh declared an end to the longstanding practice — at least until the next major storm.
Boston has been slammed with more than 8 1/2 feet of snow this season, including about 3 inches Sunday night, and more is on the way later this week. The city is just a few inches away from its snowiest winter in history.
In South Boston, the working-class neighborhood where the wintertime battles over parking spots are legendary, some complained the ban on space savers is coming too soon. Southie residents fear the nasty parking disputes that have pitted neighbor against neighbor will only get worse.
"Some people think they own these spots," said Heidi Labes, who keeps her family's two spots reserved with traffic cones.
In tightly packed Boston neighborhoods — and, for that matter, in other snowy cities where parking on the street is a problem even in the best of circumstances — homeowners use space savers to enforce the unwritten rule of the urban jungle: If you shoveled it out, it's yours.
Drivers who violate space-saver etiquette risk returning to find hostile notes on their windshields, fresh snow piled on their cars, and even smashed windows, keyed doors and flattened tires.
Typical space savers include orange traffic cones, beat-up lawn chairs, coolers and garbage cans. Stuffed animals, dolls and a tattered golf bag were among the more colorful items left on Boston streets this winter.
A recycling-truck operator in Roxbury who would identify himself only as Mason said he recently saw a toilet bowl holding down a parking spot. This winter, he added, seems to have brought out more threatening messages than years past.
A traffic cone bore this message: "I am a resident and if you value your car, don't take my space."
In general, space savers are allowed on Boston streets up to 48 hours after a storm. But many of the objects have been out at the curb for more than a month because city officials largely turned a blind eye to the practice as storm after storm hit Boston.
Kaline Mulvihill and Ben Peters, who moved to Boston last summer from Syracuse, New York, said the city should do away with space savers altogether.
"It's stupid that you can claim spots in the first place," Mulvihill said. "It should be a free-for-all."
In the city's Roxbury section, some placed the blame squarely on the city.
"If we had better snow removal, then we would have no a need for space savers," said the Rev. Larry Green, a pastor at the Timothy Baptist Church. "The people have a responsibility to be neighborly, but the city also has a responsibility to create an environment where they can be neighborly."
In Philadelphia, where residents similarly use shopping carts and other objects to protect shoveled-out parking spaces, the police department regularly tweets humorous warnings against the illegal custom under the hashtag "NoSavesies."
One, featuring a picture of Elsa from the Disney movie "Frozen" holding an orange traffic cone, urged residents upset about people parking in their spots to "Let it go."
"We have a long winter ahead of us, and we're prepared to put out as many ridiculously bad memes as necessary to get folks to shovel and share," the department said in a Facebook post.
Somerville, a Boston suburb, doesn't allow space savers either, and residents have been putting up signs this winter to remind neighbors that they don't tolerate the bare-knuckle tactics parts of Boston are notorious for.
"How should we be behaving? LIKE RATIONAL, LEVEL-HEADED ADULTS," the bright green signs read. "So should we be slashing tires? NO. And should we be bashing in windshields? NO."
AP reporter Michael Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this story.