Boston Starts Removing Parking Space Savers

A doll in a milk crate saves a parking space on a residential street in South Boston last month. (Elise Amendola/AP)
A doll in a milk crate saves a parking space on a residential street in South Boston last month. (Elise Amendola/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, orange cones and other stuff that people set out in the street to reserve the parking spaces they've dug out.

Garbage haulers and recycling crews began collecting the space savers Monday after Mayor Marty Walsh declared an end to the longstanding practice -- at least until the next major storm.

In South Boston, a neighborhood where the wintertime battles over parking spots are legendary, some complained the ban is coming too soon. The region saw about 3 more inches of snow Sunday night, and more is on the way later this week.

Southie residents fear the parking struggles 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 street parking spots reserved with traffic cones. "There has to be more tolerance. And more parking."

Others said the cleanup was long overdue.

"It's time for them to go," said Mark Nadolny. "I guess the mayor could have waited another week or two, but you've got to do it at some point."

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, or, in some of the worst instances, smashed windows, keyed doors and flattened tires.

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 unloaded more than 8 feet of snow.

In Philadelphia, where residents have used milk crates, shopping carts -- even a toilet -- to save shoveled-out parking spaces, the police department regularly tweets humorous warnings against the illegal practice 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 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.



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