Tipster Sheri Gilchrist says she and her family awoke on Christmas morning and decided to take a leisurely stroll around her South End neighborhood. Much to her consternation, however, the walk was anything but joyous.
"For the last several weeks, we've been living in a Third World city here in my South End neighborhood known to some as Chester Square," Gilchrist writes. "That's the forgotten portion of Mass. Ave. that splits between Shawmut and Tremont streets and [is] divided by a park on the two sides of the street."
Gilchrist says that once again, garbage was piled high along the sidewalks of Chester Square and many bags had been ripped open, leaving trash scattered everywhere. Several photos Gilchrist took on Christmas Day show rotten oranges, empty liquor bottles, and takeout containers half-filled with food strewn along the curb. "While some of the houses/condos on my block are listing for over $1 million, these photos seem to be the regular experience I have living here. Each week we are faced with rotting, loose garbage (forgotten and not removed), dirty streets, rats, etc. This is a major health hazard."
As Gilchrist sees it, a large part of the trash problem stems from "intermittent" garbage collection by sanitation workers. After snowstorms in mid- to late December blanketed the area with more than a foot of snow, Gilchrist says her street was never plowed by the city, making the already narrow passageway nearly impassable for large vehicles, never mind garbage trucks. In fact, Chester Square hasn't been plowed in two years, says Gilchrist. Also, as in many parts of the city, trash pickers are partly responsible for the trash situation, she says. "People are rifling through the garbage looking for anything from food to cans, who knows, perhaps even personal information that can be used for identity fraud. Whatever they are looking for, the contents of the garbage is left to fester all over the streets . . ."
A visit by a Globe reporter early last week found snow and ice mounds still lingering around Chester Square, particularly on the Lower Roxbury side. Parked cars on both sides of the street made navigating the square tricky.
Some residents had improperly placed trash and old Christmas trees out for pickup at least a day or two in advance of the city's holiday schedule.
"Both my husband and I, along with some of the other homeowners on the block, have tried contacting the mayor's office for help, along with Chief of Public Works Dennis Royer," Gilchrist writes. "No one will e-mail or call us back to help. On the Public Works website, they state their mission as follows: 'The Public Works Department provides a quality environment for the city of Boston and ensures that the city's roadways, streets, and bridge infrastructure are safe, clean, and attractive.' Is dodging open garbage, rotten meat, milk, eggs, cat litter, dog feces, glass, and ice considered to be the 'safe, clean, and attractive' environment that my taxes are paying for?"
The city responds
"The city did get some calls from that area saying the roads were not plowed or not plowed well," said Jennifer Mehigan, a city spokeswoman, in an e-mail response. It's a nagging problem she attributes to the generally tight confines of Chester Square. "Since this seems to occur with snow on the ground or not, the problem on the carriage roads of Mass. Ave. is that they are too narrow for residents to park on both sides to allow other vehicles to pass down the middle. Understandably, a snowplow has a hard time getting down the street, and the same happens with trash trucks," she said. "Public Works and Transportation will look at limiting the parking to only one side of those streets. In the meantime, a pickup truck will be sent to get any remaining residential trash bags in the area."
WHO'S IN CHARGE
Chief of Public Works and Transportation Department of Public Works
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201