Boston has been buried under historic snowfall levels since January, raising tensions in a New England city already known for its less-than-even temperament. And as snow has further limited parking options, some residents have gotten creative in staking their claims — and in sending a message to those who violate them.
The norm in Boston dictates that once someone spends time and energy clearing out a parking spot, they can put an object in the spot to save it. One resident was understandably upset when, after expending a great deal of energy to shovel out a spot, he returned home from work late one night to find it occupied by another car, one with New York plates.
“I put all the snow back,” he wrote in a Craiglist post detailing the encounter, accompanying the text with a photo of the car, now almost entirely buried in snow.
The post has since been deleted, but screenshots have been widely shared.
The poster has remained anonymous because he says he fears retribution, but he told Boston.com that he thinks his response didn’t get out of hand. “I got emails from people who said I should pop the tires. I didn’t think that was okay,” he said.
Where Should the Snow Go?
There have also been questions in Boston over whose responsibility it is to remove snow in some spots. Private areas such as shopping centers, industrial centers and office parks generally have private snow removal equipment to keep parking lots and walkways passable for employees and customers (though this trend came about well after car use was already widespread), and municipal vehicles are generally expected to plow city streets in a timely manner.
Sidewalks, however, often present a problem because although they’re public space, homeowners in most areas are required to keep them sufficiently shoveled for safe pedestrian use. The city has issued more than 4,000 citations — which come in at $50 each for a first offense — to homeowners who have failed to do so. City officials have said that they’re trying to be reasonable, but such ordinances are public safety measures.
Both homeowners and the city are facing a logistical issue, too: where to put all the snow. As CityLab (an online project of the The Atlantic) noted Feb. 19, the city has about eight billion cubic feet of snow that it needs to stash somewhere.
The current approach has been to pile snow in vacant lots (so-called “snow farms”), but space is running out. This leaves the city with the option of either using fuel-thirsty machines to melt snow or of dumping roadway snow, which is laced with salt and impurities, into Boston Harbor.
CityLab’s solution is for citizens to get more engaged in the process and offer solutions, rather than waiting for guidance from City Hall. “When there’s a big snow storm in Boston, you’ll commonly see good-hearted citizens everywhere digging out the front step of their elderly neighbor. In cities, we all look after each other,” the article notes. “It’s time to harness that sense of community and put it to work doing more than just shoveling.”