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'Allston Christmas' brings unwanted gifts and a few surprises

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 28, 2013 05:50 PM

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(City of Boston)

City officials created the above meme and tweeted it out to followers of the @NotifyBoston account with the following message: “Some #AllstonChristmas presents keep on giving. Students: take 5 with Boston 101 #hubmovein.”

Like all holidays, "Allston Christmas" can get expensive.

Sure, the "presents" of students' furniture and other belongings left on neighborhood streets this time of year are free. But other aspects are not.

The city’s day-to-day waste management expenditures rise a bit as extra municipal workers are sent out to haul debris left on sidewalks and other public property, officials said.

Property owners are fined by the city for violations, including overflowing dumpsters and for trash and other items that are not disposed of properly.

Residents who partake in "Allston Christmas" can pay dearly, too.

Some landlords, through policies written into lease agreements, can pass on the cost of city-issued fines to the responsible tenants, officials said.

And, aside from potentially being broken or dirty, discarded furniture may be home to insects, including the ever-dreaded bed bugs, which can be difficult and costly to try to exterminate.

“The whole 'Allston Christmas' thing is all fun and games until someone gets bedbugs and has to throw away all of their stuff,” said Bryan Glascock, head of the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

Celebrated around September 1st, "Allston Christmas" is the neighborhood's massive gift giveaway in which household items – from TVs to small appliances to old furniture – are discarded outside by one person and often claimed quickly by another. It comes at a time of year when thousands of apartments simultaneously change hands.

The unofficial holiday has been well-documented for years and a group of local filmmakers are planning to create a webseries based on the neighborhood tradition.

But, the city is asking residents this week, as it has during past move-ins, not to bring home any “gifts” left curbside.

“We advise residents to be very mindful that the furniture they’re taking off the street was likely left there for a reason,” said Emilee Ellison, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

As for the “gift-givers,” the city is reminding them that improperly disposing of trash and other items is illegal, can lead to fines and disruptions.

Glascock suggested that residents should sell or give away their unwanted items through various websites that allow for such exchanges. Or, residents should hold onto anything they want to discard until their scheduled trash collection day.

(To look up scheduled trash pick-up times and items acceptable for pick-up, click here.)

The city’s Inspectional Services Department and the Department of Public Plans will work in tandem this week, focused on neighborhoods including Allston, Brighton, the Fenway and Mission Hill, to inspect and issue fines for improper trash disposal and for other violations related to sanitary, environmental and building codes.

Teams of city workers will tag furniture left outside with bright-colored stickers warning that the items may be home to bed bugs or other insects or rodents.

Officials also plan to hand out informational flyers about such pests as well as about city services, tenants’ rights and a new municipal law requiring landlords to register their properties with the city.

Extra trucks and crews will be deployed to help clear debris from public spaces.

As it has in the past, the city is again encouraging landlords to rent extra dumpsters and hire extra trash removal services this week to keep their properties clear. She said in recent years many landlords and local universities have used such tactics to keep up with the heavy demand.

“Every year the mayor is concerned about move-in weekend, not just about trash issues but also about making sure tenants are aware of their rights, how to be good neighbors and to generally be safe and smart,” said Ellison.

Menino and other city officials will tour the Gardner, Ashford, Pratt, or “GAP” area, of Allston on Friday morning, she said. It will be the 14th straight move-in weekend Menino has visited a neighborhood heavily populated by college students.

Glascock said his department plans to show the mayor some properties that have continually failed to comply with city rules and other sites that have made a turnaround.

“Over the last few years it’s been getting better and better,” he said. “My hope is we’ll continue to see things get better.”

“This is a two-way street,” Glascock added. “The tenants moving in need to realize they’re moving into someone’s neighborhood. They need to find out what expectations there are and how to be a good neighbor. And landlords need to deliver their units in proper order, up to city and state building and sanitary codes.”

At 2:15 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 6, Menino will for the first-time ever host a live chat using his Twitter account @mayortommenino, according to Ellison.

The mayor will welcome residents and students to the city and will be available to answer questions during the half-hour session, she said.

“It’s an effort to reach young people where they are,” said Ellison. “To make sure they are connected to city services and know of all great things can take advantage of in the city.”

Menino partook in a live, public online chat one other time, in the summer of 2009, through, she said.

The mayor’s Tweets will be sent next week with a new hashtag the city is using this year - #HubMoveIn, Ellison said.

The hashtag has been used in recent days by various City of Boston social media accounts, including @NotifyBoston, @brkthebubble, and @ONEin3 and @CityHallToGo.

To read and see more from Allston Christmas of yore, click here.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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